03 September 2008

Starbucks=Model UN

In high school there was this club that would meet called the Model UN (United Nations). Students would assume the roles of world representatives and get together to have a debate/discussion based on world issues. I never participated, cuz it wasn’t a cool thing to do, but I always wanted to as I have always had an interest in other cultures. Today while I was sitting at Starbucks I had a fun cross-cultural experience that made me think of the excitement of different cultures working together. These two young girls approached me timidly and asked “Where are you from?” I answered “Canada” and they seemed happy with that answer. They were looking for someone they could communicate with. We stumbled through poor English communication, then they asked if I could speak French. We tried French for a minute but my mind diverts to Chinese way too much so my French is mush these days. Then the one girl asked if I could speak Chinese. I said, “a little”. So then we began communicating in Chinese. How weird? An Italian and a Canadian having conversation in English, French & Chinese??? They were having troubles sorting out their internet situation. They are here for a 5 month study term and wanted to know how they could have internet use while they were here. I explained that they could get pay-as-you-go wireless that is available at many places around Taipei. They understood this but there was a problem. Most places they could access this service are open during Taiwan business hours, this was inconvenient as they wanted to communicate with Italy and needed to account for the time difference. They don’t have a landline therefore can’t get connected with the phone company. I could tell they were frustrated and I felt bad for them. It sucks to be in a strange place and not be able to get such a normal thing figured out. I bought them a coffee just to brighten their day. We then figured out that they could purchase a 3G USB receiver on a pay-as-you-go plan from a cellphone company. They were reluctant to buy into this cuz they would have to pay a lot for the USB thingy. We did some quick research online to see if they would be able to use this USB receiver back in Italy when they were done here. To their surprise it was a globally supported product so despite the high pricetag they decided it was the best option. I don’t get a chance to help people out much in public because of the language barrier so it was nice to be of some help. And the longer I stay here the more I have a heart for those who get frustrated while walking through the hoops of this new culture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jackie is just going through the frustration of French immersion kindergarten with her daughter, Brookelyn. Her French is being challenged just like mine was when you started school. Now look, you are able to communicate with others from whenever in the world, pick a language any language and there is some common denominator.
And I too, have become more confident with my ability to speak to French Canadians, French speaking Swiss and Africans.