One of my favourite things to do is to People Watch. Admittedly, sometimes I find it infuriating, but other times it just … interesting. Intriguing.
I am fascinated not only with the physiology of the human body, but also with the workings of the human mind. If it paid me enough, I think I’d happily devote my life to studying all of the things about people. Perhaps I should be an anthropologist when I grow up?
Although the idea of being an paleoanthropologist is just as enthralling to me – and no, I’m not referring to the dietary paleo-phenomena that was, pardon the pun, the flash in the pan I totally expected it to be.
Therefore, I am neither as the both appeal to me so greatly, I wouldn’t know which one to devote my time to. So I People Watch instead.
In my admittedly very limited travails around the world (a total of approximately 12 weeks in four countries in my entire lifetime, my first overseas jaunt being about fifteen years ago, and all of them relatively well supported by people who spoke the language and pretty much acted as a guide for me) I have been fascinated by the globality of many, many behaviours.
Not, I might add, globalisation, which is the phenomenon of a thing being somewhat local (to a region or even an entire country) and becoming available, accessible, and/or observable the world over.
No, it’s the globality that intrigues me. Those acts and behaviours that are observed across the globe, regardless of race, religion, or regime one is under.
It is potentially more intriguing because we (well, some of us) tend to hold the expectation that because something is so different in another country, like the language, the food, the streetscape, etc, that everything will be different.
Humans, ultimately, are all the same across the globe. Not just in the need to satisfy feelings of hunger, hot or cold, comfort, love and acceptance etc etc blah blah, but in many other aspects that really don’t enter into our minds.
I’ve witnessed parents wanting a nice photo of their kids at various famous landmarks through to interesting features on the street.
I’ve witnessed the children of those parents refusing to cooperate. Wriggling, scowling, walking out of the photo, and doing everything in their power to prevent the ‘nice photo’ from occurring.
I’ve watched multiple women, in all the countries I’ve been in (again, not many), walking along the street only to stop, cross their legs, and sneeze.
It seems the pelvic floor is a global phenomenon in and of itself.
So that’s nice.
Let’s not forget the hotel porter who pretends the empty/very light overnight bag is extremely heavy and that they can’t lift it. Hilarious!
My most recent venture (What? You didn’t know? Why I’ve been in Vietnam, volunteering at an orphanage and only recently returned – how neglectful of me not to mention anything!) served to highlight for me just how inherent kidding is.
By “kidding” I mean “being a kid”. Why is there no word for the act of behaving like a kid? Especially when one is actually a kid.
Anyhoo … before leaving I had my own set of prejudices and expectations I needed to acknowledge. Many of these were based on external input, because I, personally, had experience with neither Vietnam nor orphans.
I had not set foot in Vietnam nor any of it’s language or culture (aside from jaunts into Footscray for a bowl of pho or egg noddle soup with wantons), nor had I ventured into an orphanage. The only ‘orphans’ I know are well into adulthood, and only became orphans when their very elderly parents died. So I don’t think that counts.
Much of what I was told before I went, and when I returned, was how much these poor little kids were missing out on, and how grateful they must be.
This was probably the most present expectation I had, and the one that I was sure was most likely. I had, in my ignorance, expected a level of sadness, gratefulness to the point of near-obsequiousness, and, above all, extremely well behaved children.
What I witnesses was … kids. Just kids. Being kids.
Making the most of what they had, and using their imaginations to fill in those moments where they weren’t scheduled to do any other things.
Sure, I witnessed ten- and eleven-year-old kids clearing tables and doing dishes, some slightly younger kids sweeping and mopping floors, and children of all ages putting taking their empty plates to be washed.
Mostly, they did it without comment, and without complaint, which is a thing I know many, many of us wish our own children would do.
Part of it is, of course, that it is simply part of their daily routine. It’s just what they have to do.
They’re also at a school, so hard to say what they’d be like when at home. I’m guessing similar, because that’s just the way things are. But how knows.
But they did many of these things in very kid-like ways. There was splashing of water, half-arsed floor mopping performed, and lots of mucking around with the brooms.
They were quiet and cooperative, but not in the least fastidious or overly careful.
There was kung fu fighting in the school grounds whilst waiting for lunch to be served, and a little bit of table parkour. There was wriggling and talking and wrestling instead of listening in class, and that one kid who was making glasses and moustaches out of plasticine instead of participating in the lesson.
There was running when it was supposed to be walking, refusal to eat food, hair that was in a neat ponytail at the start of the day and a messy, tangled bird’s nest not long after lunch.
There was excitement about things that they had created, a desire to show carers what they did at school (from the younger kids, anyway), and that incredible fascination that only children (and a small number of adults) have when they see something new and are absolutely captivated and curious about it.
The element that blew my expectations well out of the water, however, was when I caught a few of the kids Dabbing.
Or, as the situation really went down, as I as taking photos during class time, when I’d turn the camera to face a particular child, they Dabbed for me.
I’ve often been fascinated with how turns of phrase and common puns make their way around the globe. Obviously now, what with the new fandangled internets and things it’s fairly understandable. But back in the 19th century and prior, how did these things get around so quickly?
And how did Dabbing make it to an orphanage in Vietnam?
It is, like, an evolutionary thing? Or just one of those Maslow’s human needs things, like the need for food, water, and shelter? It just happens, simply by the virtue of being human, regardless of race, religion, or regime you’re living under?