Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Our Tells

When we meet Vietnamese people who have returned to Vietnam after living in the States or in Europe for a period of time, we immediately recognize a strangeness in them. Sometimes it is their manner of speaking or the clothes they wear. Other times it is the way they carry themselves, the obvious fear they manifest when crossing streets, or squeamishness about eating street food. Like in a poker game, these returned Vietnamese have their own unique give-aways. Whatever their "tell" we know instantly that they have lived elsewhere.

I was reflecting on this recently and began to wonder what our "tells" will be when we return to the States next summer. Will we march out in front of traffic expecting cars and trucks to weave around us? Will we slurp our noodles and eat with our bowls to our chins? Will we speak softly, lace our conversation with gentle humor, hold a friend's upper arm to express affection, or nod our heads to say hello and goodbye?

Some of Caleb's tells are already apparent. Yesterday we were playing with his cars, and I was explaining to him that in the United States we will have a car of our own. I pointed to the various seats and said, "Daddy will drive, and Caleb and Nathan will sit in back." Caleb pointed to the trunk of a Matchbox sedan and said, "And the driver can sleep in here."

"No," I replied, "In America we won't go in taxis, so we won't need a driver."

Caleb was perplexed. A few minutes later he came up with a solution, "We can get a red van for Daddy and a white taxi for the driver." My parents have offered to loan us their red mini-van, and the taxis we normally take in Vietnam are white and green, so this suggestion had its merits. In any case, Caleb seemed so relieved to find a good use for the taxi driver, that I decided to let it go. No need to point out that there won't be a fleet of unemployed drivers traveling back with us. He'll figure these things out in time.

Photo: Caleb with his cars, June 2007


  1. Ohhhh how precious. Sounds like a good plan... he will learn it all in due time, being around it all and visibly seeing it will help. I had no idea you guys were coming back next summer, but that's terrific news! Please share all when you have time. :) It's been wonderful though to hear all your stories and takes on life from the other side of the world.

  2. We're scheduled to be back for one year and plan to live in Wheaton. We'll probably be a stone's throw from Crossway. It will be fun to get together and catch up on things from both sides of the world.

  3. Oh, so very cute. I love the ways of a child.

  4. You have a boy of great compassion and empathy! I loved your poem over at Seedlings in Stone. Breathtaking.

  5. just wanted to tell you...wonderful grace poem