Interview with an ESL Conversation Partner

Mission Adelante's Bhutanese Logistics Coordinator, Drew Hammond, recently interviewed his mother, Julie Hammond, about her experience serving as an ESL conversation partner with the Bhutanese Ministry.

How long have you been serving with Mission Adelante?
I have been serving as a conversation partner for the level two English Second Language (ESL) class in the Bhutanese Ministry for one year.
What are some things that you have taught your Bhutanese friends during your time of service?
During ESL class we have taught our Bhutanese friends many things. For example: the difference between “chop, dice, slice, and cube” when cutting vegetables, how to fill out citizenship applications, and to say “I need an interpreter for Nepali” when going to the hospital or doctor. My family and I have also invited our Bhutanese friends over to our house to teach them how to make pizza!

Those are all great ways that you have taught your friends! In what ways do you feel like you have learned from your relationships with your Bhutanese friends?
I have learned that we can love each other, even when we are just learning to speak each others language. They have also taught me how to make really yummy homemade chai tea.

Tell me more about how you express love to each other without speaking the same language.
Even without deep conversations, we build connections through serving one another and through smiles, hugs, and “namaste”. [“Namaste” is a word used to greet someone in Nepali culture.]

You mentioned that you build connections with your Bhutanese friends by serving one another. How have you been served by your Bhutanese friends?
   I’m fed very well every time I visit their homes, they have extended my family by adopting me (and my family) into theirs. They also teach me Nepali words during English Class and help me to understand their culture.

What is one thing that you have learned about Bhutanese culture?
How they celebrate. Their heart and soul is put into every detail of their celebrations. I really enjoyed learning one of their cultural festivals which is about celebrating the relationship between siblings. I wish that our culture had a celebration like that too.

Are there any moments where you feel like your friendships with Bhutanese were life-giving to you?
The moment that stands out the most is when I was dancing with everyone at the End of Trimester Party in the Spring. Earlier this year I was at a womens conference and some of the women laid their hands on me and prayed for healing of my Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which I had for 14 years. During those years I was unable to dance due to the side effects of MS, but while the women were praying for me, I felt like I was going to dance again. I had no idea the first time I would dance after 14 years of illness would be with my Bhutanese friends from the other side of the world.

That is a very moving story, thank you for sharing that. Is there any advice you would have for other people who may be interested in serving or who are already serving at Mission Adelante?

My Bhutanese friends are so jovial and easy to laugh with that they make it seem like we aren’t serving them. Instead it feels like I am spending time with my friends and having fun together. My advice would be to come and build relationships with our Bhutanese friends who will do anything for you that they can.

Important Dates:
  • Wednesday, December 25-Wednesday, January 1: Mission Adelante office closed. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!