Challenge: Unclear

**WARNING: I am no longer sure what this post is about and it is very rambling. It starts out about cultural differences and ends with a bad drawing. Sorry in advance. (Not really, because it’s my bloggie blog and I can write whatever I want, but I’ll pretend I’m sorry, anyway.)**

I first started teaching, to adults, when I was 22. When I was 22, I looked like I was about 18. I had moved out to DC with my friend and I decided I wanted to teach English. Despite the fact that I had no experience, somebody decided to give me a job.

One of my favorite students was from Gabon. She was 17 at the time and had never been away from home before that point. She was incredibly sweet, naive and kind. We loved each other.

One afternoon after class she came up to me and said, beaming, “Megan, you look fat today.”

It’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? I was like, Uh, SAY WHAT NOW?!

She continued, “You look good. You look like you’ve gained weight. You look–you know–fat,” and then gestured with her hands to indicate the width of my ginormous ass.

I was perturbed. I was not fat; I wasn’t even chubby. Most people would have called me thin, especially in the United States. I tried to maintain teacher professionality (shut up–it’s a word!), but I told her she wasn’t being very polite and walked away, trying to catch glimpses of  all the junk in my trunk on the way out.

A little while later, she ran over to see me and said, “I’m so sorry! In my country, when you say somebody is fat, it means they look really healthy and good. It’s a compliment that means people are doing well in their life.”

Yeah, whatever.

Me at 22. Though not very fashionable, also clearly not fat.

Even though I’d spent almost a year in France and other European countries a couple of years before that, I consider the Being Called Fat Incident to be my first really shocking cultural experience.

So, thanks to a lot of therapy, clearly I got over it and am not reliving this incident 10+ years later. Now I use this story as a great example of cultural differences and miscommunications. It’s also a great opportunity to get compliments, because people always say, “But you’re not fat! You’re thin!”

Look, people, I’m not too proud to use any means possible to get people to tell me I look good, okay? At least I’m honest with myself.

Now tell me I look pretty!

Anyway, at first the rest of this post was going to be about cultural differences and how interesting they are, and how they make us better people because we understand more about the world around us, blah blah blah blah. Then I realized that lots of other people have done this better than I could and probably give actually useful information, whereas I would mainly make fun of myself and possibly other people, and then talk about potato chips or something.

Okay, so then I decided I was going to say the obligatory stuff about different concepts of beauty and fat/thin, blah blah blah blah blah, but I’m too lazy to really go into it. Plus, again, other people have said more interesting and intelligent things about it than I ever could, and there’s only so much a person can talk about potato chips (I kid! I can always talk about potato chips).

Instead I’m going to do an interpretive dance about my feelings.

Not really! I’m half Ukrainian, so me dancing at all is just painful for all parties involved.

Ukrainians aren't really known for their stellar rhythmic abilities.

But I am going to put up a badly-drawn picture of how I feel when I get a massage from a teensy little Thai lady and call it a day.

I'm not a big person, but I feel huMONgous. How are their hands so STRONG?!

Final Score:

I don’t know, because I’m not really sure what the challenge was here.

So, um…

World: 0   Megan: 1

Woooooot!!!!

p.s. Jason is in Vietnam until Thursday with the camera, so I am holding off on posting anything about our trip until I have the pictures.

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12 Comments

Filed under Daily Challenge, Living Abroad, Thailand

12 responses to “Challenge: Unclear

  1. I remember during my time as a nurse getting into a heated debate with a Nigerian woman. She was one of my patients and the debate started because she wanted me to give her high calorie nutritional supplements – despite the fact that she was morbidly obese. I explained that the last thing she needed was more calories. She got upset and claimed that if she lost weight her husband wouldn’t love her any more.

  2. Ha ha ha Megan…if you don’t know what the challenge is, did you rreeaallyy win it? ;)

  3. hahaha, i love your blog so much. every post is a treat!

    i once went to a ngo seminar where they explained cultural differences in IT, and they told us they had volunteers who worked in africa somewhere. when the people in the village were asked if they liked the their computers, they answered “yeah, it’s really slow, so while it does things we have time to chat together”

    man, after thailand, i’m moving to that fat african country and eating chocolate cake all day long, it sounds awesome.

    • Thanks, dude! :)

      Hmmm….yeah, I need to move to a country where I can eat potato chips and chocolate chip cookies all day. It really does sound amazing.

  4. Fred

    Your blog is great! This post is another gem!

    May I repost sorta-related entry from my blog here?
    ===
    I had breakfast in a new place yesterday morning, across the road from Chiang Mai Uni entrance. I chose a seaweed and pork soup. Yes, seaweed. Yes, for breakfast. And very good too. When I went to pay, there was young lady (27-ish) sat down next to her sister/mother/daughter/colleague who was accepting payment.

    The young lady (YL) laughed.
    Politely, I smiled back.
    YL: “waawakka sawannee tor ettie waa ka”
    Me: ” I have no idea what you just said. But I’ll join in the joke with a little smile, and a soft chuckle, to be polite!”
    YL:”akkanawa dee woah naj say toma fwan hngaour!”
    At which point, she leaned forward, and PRODDED ME FIRMLY IN THE STOMACH with her forefinger. Then laughed uproarishly.
    Me: (a little surprised) “WTF just happened here?”
    YL uses the universal hand gesture for mimicking the bump of a pregnant lady, and laughs even more…
    Me:”!?!?!?!?!”
    I wandered off, bemused, and swore I would never eat again.

    WTFF? I mean, What The Flipping Flip was that? OK, I’m no longer slim, but it comes a bit keen when total strangers, whom you are paying for their services, starting poking your wobbly bits and laughing in public.
    ===

    Thanks to Megans latest post, I now understand she was merely complimenting me on my life success. It’s a stretch, but reading it that way is best for my psyche, so that’s what it is.

    • Hahaha! That’s hilarious. I was actually going to comment on how it’s okay to tell people they’re…um…chubby in Thailand, but I pooped out.

      And you’re welcome for the realization! :)

  5. Megan. Megan. Megan.

    Girrrlllll, I gotta tell you somethin.

    When I went to visit my family in Lamphun (haven’t been back since!) they kept calling me uuan. Fat. Seriously.

    Now I love my family but some of the the fattest family members were saying this to me. Me. Yeah, so I know I gained a little weight in Ecuador but fat?

    Culture is a bitch, ain’t it?

    Ran into another friend, kohn Thai, she says, “You put on some weight. You look good.”

    *clinches teeth*

    Sigh. And release. . .

    • Uhhh…wow. If they think you’re uuan, I don’t even want to know what they’d make of me. Holy cow.

      Yeah, culture is quite a bitch. Thanks a lot, culture. Thanks for *nothing*.

  6. Marlee

    That pic of grandma and grandpa is great!

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