Till Our Bellies Ache


my Khmer dance students dancing to a Swahili song, sung by our African brothers & sisters. 2012.

I am so thankful for…

working in a cross cultural community where we learn and grow together.

We may be from different places, peoples, and languages, but when we laugh, it is the same. We laugh till our bellies ache and our eyes water. There is richness deep in the spirit, working with people of different cultures and backgrounds. It’s quite beautiful, actually. (And great fun, too!)  See below, just a few of my fond memories (and experiences of recent):

a few  years ago

african american coworker: (speaking chinese) bu hao… (he shakes his head as he is working on my other coworker’s computer)

me: (I abruptly turn around, realizing he just spoke chinese) What did you say?!

asian coworker#1: (laughing) he said ‘not good..’

me: I’ve worked here for how long now, with all the chinese speakers, but i’m learning chinese from the black guy?

african american coworker: (winks at me, with a look that says, ‘you just got schooled..!’)

many months ago

asian coworker#2: I started my spanish course yesterday.

me: that’s awesome!

asian coworker #2: yeah, it’s not too hard! we learned our first phrase last night, ‘como esta? (how are you?)’

My husband said that one is easy. All you have to say is, ‘Come on Esther!’

last week 

me, on the phone: ‘Hola, soy la enfermera en la clinica….’ (Hi, I’m a nurse at the clinic….) 

patient: (silence) hello? (with a slight french accent) I don’t understand.

me: Oh. OOPS! Wrong language! (trying to shift gears to French but..) ‘Oui! Errr…. Je ne parle pas francais bien (I don’t speak French well)….

patient: (now thinking that I speak French, she begins spewing out French really fast) I wanted to talk to you about …

me: (uhhh… yes… that’s correct. I mean.. ) Err… c’est vrai!  (it’s true!)



asian coworker #3: oooh.. mi corozona! (she is expressing adoration for another coworker)

me: what did you just say? (because corozona is not a legit word in spanish)

asian coworker #3: i’m just quotin’ our other coworker.

latina coworker: yeah, she said it to me the other day and i just looked at her confused. then she explained.

” you know how spanish pps be sayin, ‘oh, mi corazon‘ (oh, my heart/ my love)? well… i thought you can throw an ‘A‘ at the end of it.

muchacho= boy , muchacha = girl

corazon= heart ,  corazonA = heart, but referring to a girl.

so she pretty much just made up her own word.

i laughed so hard i had to stop myself from rolling on the floor.

and a few minutes later…

me: what’s a papichulo?

asian coworker #4: girl you don’t know and you claim to be certified in spanish?

me: I only know formal Spanish, I don’t know slang…

asian coworker #4: Tito!  why you be askin’ me what everything means…”

(i still don’t understand what she means when she says, Tito! )


patient#2: You can call me “Pah” (auntie, in Lao)

me: Okay, Pah. Khawb kom (thank you)!

patient#2: No.. khawb kom is Thai, khawb jai is Lao.

me: Oh. Oops. Khawb Jai, Pah !

~ ~ ~

Through these experiences, I am humbled and realize how much I have to learn. This is just one of many things i’m grateful for, as part of the weekly grad-itude 101 series. Thanks Esther for sharing the link with me  =)


7 thoughts on “Till Our Bellies Ache

  1. You speak Spanish? That’s really cool. I speak Spanish too. 🙂 How many languages do you really know? I think its really cool that you speak so many languages. I only know two (English and Spanish) but I really like to learn other languages and I know a smattering of words in a few other languages. I’d really like to be fluent in German, not that it has anything to do with anything, but since we’re on the subject of languages…

    I liked the stories in this post. Its so nice that you have such a really nice relationship with your coworkers. I think that’s really something rare and special. You seem like such a really nice, happy, positive person.

    • i speak 3 fluently (english/spanish/khmer). i know a handful of basic phrases in other languages. But as they say, ‘when you don’t use it, you lose it.’ that is especially the case for me… i ask patients to teach me words in their languages all the time, but if i don’t use it, i will forget it so easily. =(

      thanks for your encouragement… =)

  2. This is so cool — I love multicultural environments and it sounds like there were a lot of languages being flung around! I also love the surprise that comes when another person speaks a different language! So much fun! 🙂 Thank you so much for participating in GRAD-ITUDE 101! I hope you’ll be there next week, too!

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