I’m so used to it now that it no longer seems strange, until I imagine it happening in the USA. Then I remember how remarkable it truly is. 

Let’s say you studied Spanish, as I did for 4 years. And let’s say you didn’t live in a large Spanish-speaking town (which wasn’t the case for me but is necessary for the comparison). The parallel situation is, essentially, that you’d shout “Hola!” at every person who looks like they might speak Spanish. Crazy, huh?! Well, that’s kind of what it’s like here. 

There was a young boy in my training site who, whenever he saw us, rode across the field on his bicycle shouting, “Hello, my name is Garnum!” Well, I’m not entirely sure that was his name because all efforts to engage in conversation with him led to his cycling away. But his opening with such enthusiasm was quite unexpected so early on in my service. Now, it is the norm. 

The standard around Govi-Altai is that students who are learning English will give a confident “Hi” or “Hello.” To them I will respond in kind. Sometimes there is a “What is your name?” or “How old are you?” in either direction. A few of the daring young ones, those not yet learning English, will make the attempt at a “Hello” or “Hi” and that’s the end of it. To the shy young ones, I give a smile and a Mongolian greeting, which sometimes turns into a dialogue exhausting all my questions and answers in a few minutes. 

Occasionally, I am taken aback by something quite unexpected. The best for my sense of purpose was when a girl said, “Hello, Love.” I figured I must have taught her class recently and she remembered my name. The best for my sense of humor was the boy who said, “Hi. Baby.” I was prepared to give a “hi” back, but the delayed “baby” totally threw me and I could only laugh. And every once in a while, there is a random person just waiting for the opportunity to try out the one English phrase they know, be it “Merry Christmas,” “I love you,” or “Happy Birthday.”

Some of the other volunteers have gotten “hellos” in Russian or German, but not me, not yet. If it happens, it will probably lead to a blog wherein I assert my American-ness. Until then, Goodbye!

2 Responses to hello

  1. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    Although today is Friday, it’s my “Monday,” (I have Wed & Thur off from work so those days are my “weekend”), and I’m sitting at my computer, eating my breakfast (store-brand Cheerios w/almond milk w/a sprinkling of thawed frozen mixed berries) and a cup of pumpkin-flavored coffee w/store-brand Truvia or Stevia and almond milk), getting ready to leave in less than an hour for a 10-hr day at work (going in 2 hrs early for O/T), and what a great start to my day, reading your blog entry, Love! As I read about each person and their greeting, I picture it my head, especially the one where you laugh at the “Honey” greeting, and that is so totally you, I can see it! Thanks once again for sharing and helping my workweek to get started on the right foot, w/a smile (actually, a bunch of them!) and a chuckle (again, a bunch of them!). You crack me up!

  2. Kathy Willis says:

    In my Incredimail I have icons that have a smiley face waving & saying “Hello” & also “Bye”. I wish I could put them on here for you, it would make you smile as you have made me smile. Love you. ~Auntie~

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