“And this is a B. B as in barbecue,” said Misti, pronouncing each word slowly, loudly, shrilly. “Do you even have barbecue in your country? It’s what we’re famous for where I come from, Atlanta. But I live In New York City now. Do you kids know New York City or Atlanta?”

Misti was met by even, neutral stares from the class of 25 students from the People’s Republic of Annam.

“No? Okay. This is a C. C as in Chevy, which is a kind of car. Chevy car! Do you have Chevys here? I’ve mostly seen Hyundais.”

More unreadable monotone eye contact from the children. Misti took this to mean they were hanging on her every word, and continued.

“So this is a D, like the back half of Christian Dior…”

The students continued to regard the strange Westerner with resigned apathy. Their usual teacher had told them to be polite to the Westerners, who came to teach a lesson as part of the Victory Volunteer Vacations, under penalty of a swatting. Soon, Misti would be off to spend three hours building a home in an affluent suburb and the remainder of the day ladling soup at a homeless shelter that was implicitly understood to be for photo opportunities only. But the children would have to endure fifteen more lessons on the English alphabet before the end of the month, and they couldn’t speak a word of the language–they barely knew the 37-letter Annamese alphabet.

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