[Insert deep and concise Doogie Howser journal entry about remembering your youth]
So, it appears that I have a minor obsession with Doogie Howser, M.D. I unconditionally love everything about the show, but the most noteworthy component is the theme song. I mean its genius. Let me characterize it for you the way I see it:
It starts off much like a murder mystery (music appropriate for a lurker), then the villainous notes begin to favor compassion and start twiddling (a part that will you undoubtedly give you a sense of relief) as if the lurker behind your window slowly reveals himself, and it turns out it’s just your silly Dad! Then, you both give out big belly-laughs, he lightly pushes your shoulder with a fist, and then a whole parade of clowns march into your room and take over with silly, dumpy, organ music.
I’ve even become fond of blogging at night (what Doogie does at the end of every episode) mostly because I secretly like to pretend that I have the ability to channel Doogie’s spirit, and so it’s only obvious that my peak of creativity is then. Anyway, that sure didn’t have anything to do with Vietnam. Happy Teacher’s Day!
Yep. The other day (November 20th) was a Vietnamese national holiday called Teacher’s Day. It was a day full of bouquets and cards, very awkwardly similar to a funeral… It’s a whole day of students showing appreciation for their teachers, current & past. Some of the kids even went on a 45 minute bike ride to give one of their old teachers some flowers. It’s amazing how much education is revered here. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to give teachers in the U.S. this much attention.
All the kids didn’t have school that day too, so it was a full day of spending time with my kids. I watched Stomp the Yard with some of the hip-hop-lovin’ boys (by the way, has anyone ever seen that? It’s very bizarre, because there’s a significant amount of wolf hats in that movie. So weird.), and later caught some of them dancing in front of mirrors. I played hide and seek in the dark (in a clearly not so dark room) with some of the younger boys, and I got so nostalgic. They were all so little, agile, and full of energy, and they were screaming because they were having so much fun- kind of reminded me of how I used to be able to fit in the smallest of hiding spots.
The boys are constantly reminding me of myself as a kid. Their eyes are just as glued to cartoons as my 2nd-grade-glasses-eyes used to be. They love to do ninja moves and hop/jump/flip on anything that’s in their way. They read comic books all the time (I used to be obsessed with those huge giant books of Garfield and Calvin&Hobbes comics.)
Yet, perhaps the most significant reminder was a couple days ago- when I turned around and caught Dao in mid-imagination-Hadouken-fireball-motion, and then he immediately stopped and got embarrassed. I would have given anything at the moment for a translator to come out of thin air and say: “No! Don’t stop! Don’t be embarrassed! My God, I used to do pretend video-game fight every second of my life! I used to practice super dragon punching in every open space I encountered and I probably even convinced myself that I perfected the Hadouken fireball motion! I spent most of my free time designing manuals for new, made-up fighting games- complete with drawings, user interface mapping, character super moves, and their background stories! Please, don’t let me hinder on your imagination! I was EXACTLY like you!” But, all I did was smile.
This made me reminisce all those times I practiced fighting moves in my living room, oblivious to the outside world (i.e. anyone that could see me through that giant front window.) One day, my brother Huy was taking a walk with one of his friends and his friend noticed me through the window and said, “Huy, what exactly is your brother doing? Is he dancing?” He replied, “Oh… he’s just umm… practicing his karate katas.” When he told me this, I too was embarrassed of my imagination and was actually glad that he covered for me. I don’t really know why. It must have been one of the first instances of embarrassment in my childhood.
I’m digressing. Let me tell you about our Teacher’s Day party. Special occasion parties here at the shelter are extremely fun and funny. You never realize how much power an M.C. really has until you attend one of the shelter’s parties. The M.C. (Phuoc) passed the mic along to several random kids so they could sing songs for the staff and volunteers. Okay, I shouldn’t say pass along, it’s actually a VICIOUS game of peer pressure- and like my family does at every event, relentless cheering and loud clapping/pounding is foolproof when it comes to forcing someone to perform.
Anyhoo, several song dedications later (I was laughing at the translations going on in my head: “Happy Teacher’s Day everyone… Now, I will sing a song.”), Duc (the youngest boy) did the most insanely cute performance for us. He sings a simple song but has a whole choreographed dance that goes with it that includes arm shakes, body twists, and a serious tuck and roll move at the end. This dance is nothing short of amazing, and the head-mother apparently makes him do it every morning for exercise. Awesome.
The party ended with the hip-hop boys doing handstands and baby freezes, and then it turned into a rager (this seems to be a pattern in my life). Sunflower seed shells were all over the room and kids were running around screaming and “dancing,” (or dragging kids on the floor) to M.I.A. Don’t believe me? See below.
After the party, the group of young hip-hop dancing boys assembled at a table underneath the stairs. They were actually just doing homework together, but it looked like a little boy’s club out of Little Rascals. I went over to see what they were doing and Minh Thanh timidly said, “We want to ask you something…” I replied, “What’s that?” He said, “Well… we wanted to ask… if you have some free time in the future… if you could teach us some moves…?” I died inside a little bit.
At night, a few of the staff suggested that I put the flowers outside my room when I went to sleep, because they were “toxic flowers.” Later, (after forgetting about the suggestion and a night of extremely good sleep in a roomful of aromatic flowers) I realized they thought they were toxic because some of the kids are allergic to pollen. I am not. I in fact, enjoy a flower or two. Silly Vietnam.
This country sure does have some character to keep me constantly amused. Where else can I experience therapeutic coining and eat tasty duck embryos the same night?
UPDATE: Yesterday, my bike got stolen. Today, I accidentally let one of my kid’s birds go. I’m on an awesome losing streak. Tomorrow, I plan on losing my class, kind of like a David Copperfield magic trick.