Turns out that my friend's favorite food is nasi lemak, a classic Malaysian breakfast combo. So I whipped up a batch to show her, and spark some conversation.
Once upon a time there was a sweet little girl who lived in Mexico City. She was happy there with her mommy and her daddy and her three crazy brothers.
But there was just one tiny problem.
Well. It wasn't really a problem at all, but more of a sassy little hula hoop of a challenge that required her attention.
In her Mexico City school, this little girl's teachers and classmates all spoke English.
And since she had just moved there from her home country of Malaysia, she did not.
Well. She spoke a little English but her kind and loving parents were concerned for her and wanted to give her a little extra boost as she learns how to pick up that hula loop of fluency, gives it a good starting spin around her waist, and starts twirling.
So they did what any parents would do. They reached out to their friendly American twirling coach and yelled, "Help!"
Sorry, Amina. I was fresh out of dried anchovies.
And that is why my January afternoons now include a few minutes of video chatting with my new friend, Amina. We talk about colors and numbers and the ABCs. We sing Twinkle, Twinkle and Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and all the other delightful songs that English-learning children around the world love to sing.
Today we talked about her favorite foods, and tomorrow, I think, we will discuss animals. I'm digging up some Beanie Babies to share with her.
We are taking baby steps together, Amina and me. We're getting to know each other, and I hope she is learning to trust me. Because learning happens only when we feel safe.
She smiles when she sees my face pop up on her dad's phone, and that seems to be a good sign.
It's going to take some time, but I have every confidence that all these little moments, the tiny victories of "Yes, that marker is pink!" and "That's right, it's your nose!" are slowly accumulating and gaining momentum.
There's no doubt in my mind that my friend, Amina, is learning to twirl.
And someday soon, she will be speaking English happily every after.
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Here are two more stories about my adventures with nasi lemak, both written during my travels in Malaysia. I just re-read them and the second one conjured up memories so sweet that I cried happy tears. I hope you will enjoy them both.