Born in the countryside of Vietnam, Tuyet Nguyen came to America to provide her five daughters with more opportunities to succeed. Not speaking a word of English, Nguyen is able to live her day to day life with the help of her daughters and grandchildren translating for her. One of these grandchildren is my best friend Tracy Nguyen.
Speaking both Vietnamese and English fluently, Tracy can break the language barrier between her grandmother and I by translating what we say to one another. However–while the translation does make Tuyet and I able to understand one another– it still doesn't provide enough room to have a full conversation with each other.
Tuyet and I formed a beautiful bond through means beyond simply talking. Exposing me to Vietnamese culture, Tuyet loves to show me videos from where she's from that showcase the festivals they celebrate, the food they eat, and the clothing that Vietnamese people wear. Showing genuine interest and enthusiasm to delve into learning about her culture, I show Tuyet that I care by giving her my full attention and shining a big smile her way as I watch the magnificent videos she sets before me.
Tuyet shows me that she cares when she tells Tracy to invite me over to her house to eat dinner with them. Always cooking way too much food, I have learned to come to her house with an empty stomach. As I completely devour the delicious food she makes for me, I see Tuyet smiling and watching me eat with pride in what she has just prepared, and happiness knowing she fed two people she loves and cares for deeply. And let us not forget, Tuyet always insists that I don't leave her house without a Tupperware container of food as well.
Recently celebrating Tuyet's birthday with their family, I wanted to show my appreciation for everything she does for me in some way. Making a trip down to a Vietnamese giftshop in Uptown, I decided to buy Tuyet a beautiful tea set because she always makes homemade teas and is enthusiastic to show them to me when I come over. Beaming with joy as she opened the blue box draped in Vietnamese letters, Tuyet lit up upon noticing what was inside the box.
Although Tuyet and I cannot converse with one another, we have formed a beautiful bond through different means of nonverbal communication and genuine appreciation for each other's company. Determined to one day talk with her conversationally, I am currently trying to learn some Vietnamese. Until then, we will continue to strengthen our bond in the wonderful ways we have learned how.
Chao Ban! (Goodbye friends!).