Monday, June 25, 2012

Falling on my Face

Through the course of my humiliation-littered existence, I have discovered that laughter is one of the most cross-culturally uplifting phenomenons that God has given us. I have certainly had my share of embarresments and mishaps here in Cambodia, especially when it comes to language, but laughter covers a multitude of blunders. Here are just a few:

1. I never expected to be mixing up Japanese with Khmai, but sometimes when you are trying to learn a new language, another language you have learned keeps slipping out. So when someone at work asked me how my week was, I wanted to say it was awesome, but instead I said Saiko, which means awesome in Japanese...Unfortunately Sai' Ko does not mean awesome in Khmai, but beef. So I told someone I had had a beefy week. 

2. At dinner one night I tried to say in exasperation: "I don't speak Cambodian!" but I think I accidentally said "I don't have a Cambodian grandma!" true true. 

I called a guy beautiful went I meant to say “good,” like his English was good.

Ot'tay is “no” which can easily get confused with OK, the universal “yes,” Many confusions have happened as a result. 

“Khmai” is the language and “Khmei” is children. So, sometimes I ask what the children call something instead of what the Khmai people call something. I guess I pretty much just speak like a 2-year-old anyways, so it works. 

I've also mixed up the money a lot. I was trying to barter and realized the 500 real that I was adamently offering was about 10 cents for the mango I wanted to buy. A little low even for a good deal.And I've also accidentally offered the moto drivers about twice as much money as they even asked for. They all love me. 

On Sunday I went to Mala and Banan's church, where Banan was preaching. It was a good experience, but I definitely was the only foreigner there. As if I wasn't already feeling sufficiently self-conscious being the only foreigner in the crowd and having everyone stare at me (and a few of them mention me in their testimonies, although I'm not sure what they said). Offering time consists of people scuttling quickly from all ends of the church building up to the pot at the front to drop their reals in. Mala looked at me expectantly and I was embarrassed because in the rush to get to church that morning I had forgotten to bring any money. She smiled and handed me a wad from her purse and shoved me up there. So I tried to scuttle quickly without drawing too much attention. I was embarrassed for being foreign, for being so tall, for not speaking Khmai or understanding how I was supposed to do anything here, for not having brought my own offering, and for being towards the end of the rush so people were already starting to stand for the next song. On my way back I slipped on some sand or something and fell splat on my face in the front of the church where everyone could see me. There was a gasp across the room. I quickly jumped up, regained composure, and smiled so everyone knew I was alright. Laughter rippled across after that. I laughed too. “Thanks God for the lesson in humility today,” I thought. I also thought it was fitting that if I had no skills like playing an instrument, no language or cultural understanding, and not even any money to offer God today, I could literally fall on my face in his presence. Even if it was an accident.

There have also been many other times when I have said something or had an interaction that made everyone giggle, and I have yet to know what was so funny. But I'm glad to offer the entertainment.

Hanging out with my host brother and sister is usually a series of funny noises, faces, and shared laughter. So today, I am thankful for laughter. 

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