I learned the cha-cha in the strangest place.
It was the end of the 1980’s and I was working in Hong Kong.
Each muggy morning, I walked out of my high rise apartment building with two American co-workers.
We traveled by double-decker bus to Argyle Street Refugee Camp. The cement expanse was surrounded by barbed wire and looked like a concentration camp, inside and out.
I’d give my number at the guarded door and say “thank you” in Chinese.
Argyle Street Refugee Camp was managed by the Hong Kong Government, and Mr. Singh was in charge.
The Vietnamese refugees lived in barracks. Their spaces were like what groceries are stacked on at the supermarket: wooden boards on a metal frame two or three stories high.
Most of them were hopeful; waiting to be resettled by a European or North American country.
We taught them English there, and occasionally field-tripped together around Hong Kong. We ice skated, visited landmarks, scaled Victoria Peak and shopped.
I had brought along my new cassette tape “Stand By Me” and I taught them to sing the song as part of the English lessons. We sang it line by line and I explained what each part meant. They never forgot it; years later Anh sent me letters ending with “Stand By Me.”
I learned part of their Vietnamese National anthem and a few of their folk songs –I can still sing parts of them.
They loved to dance. Somebody organized dances in the one-room schoolhouse that doubled as a chapel. They were thrilled to teach a stumbling American beginner — like me– how to dance.
Sitting here in the Midwest thirty some years later, I can’t believe that the adventurous relief worker who danced the cha-cha with Vietnamese friends was really me.
© Lisa M. Luciano 😊
Word prompt of the day: dancing