Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Green Tea Toothpaste

Note:  I wrote this earlier this month, and have only gotten around to posting it today, as I figured I should post something for March …

Languages and accents were everywhere I went, naturally, one does not expect to travel through various countries and areas for almost four months without expecting this.  In the past few months, I have encountered all kinds of languages and accents.  All these languages did not really bother me, as I was already a foreigner in my own country as a Deaf person – only a small percentage of people spoke my language, ASL. 

I knew about accents.  I knew how they applied to ASL and KSL – if someone signed a sign a certain way, you could tell which region they grew up in, or which school they went.  I have read books with English accents in the dialogue, others with Scotland Highlanders saying, “Dinna ye know ye ken go?”  I understood, in theory, why people have a hard time understanding English in foreign countries, partly because of the slight combination of the country’s language and English, along with how letters are voiced out.  That understanding went from ‘in theory’ to reality, as pen and paper was my mode of communication with the various people I encountered.

“Eny Cestions?” a guide in Egypt wrote, bless her heart, and it took me a few seconds to figure out what she was trying to ask as our tour ended.  I didn’t have any questions for her, but I realized that I had the good fortune to have it written down so I could take some time to figure out what she was trying to say, rather than only hearing it once and having it lost in the wind.  In the middle of the tour, she wrote “Tiebs driver” and for the rest of the time, I thought that was the name of the driver, until she made the universal sign for money, and I smacked my forehead and fumbled for some money. 

Just when I thought I had gotten used to using “chemist” instead of the pharmacy throughout the two years in Kenya, I ended up in countries that uses the word pharmacy, alternating with other countries that uses the term chemist ... I have taken to using both words whether I need cough drops or rabies shots.

In Kenya, tuk-tuks were the motorcycle taxis, with a bench and a roof on the back of the motorcycle, in India, it became an auto rickshaw, back to being a tuk-tuk in Thailand, but only this time it is with a lounge chair style of bench and painted various sparkly colours, and finally they are tricycles in the Philippines – motorcycles with a little sidecar attached.

Now, I’m sure you’re a little confused about what all this have to do with the title of this blog post – well, here it is! I ran out of toothpaste in Viet Nam, and went to a small shop (a duka in Kenya, a bodega in New York City), and picked up a familiar brand’s logo, along with the familiar green colour, thinking I had picked up mint toothpaste, which I have used practically since I was a kid.  You can imagine my surprise when I tasted something akin to green tea when I brushed with that toothpaste for the first time. 

I googled the translation of the Vietnamese words on the tube, and, yes, it was green tea flavored.   

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