Thanks for letting me introduce In Your Court, in which recent college graduate Ray teaches English and coaches basketball in Vietnam for a week while harboring a secret back condition. He’s helped out of his self-destructive rut by Xin, who works as a translator and middleman connecting benefactors with charities.
I think the excitement of traveling can sometimes turn to stress in places where you don’t know the language, because it’s always a relief to have the option to speak out and be understood even if you don’t go ahead and do it. Although Ray refuses to talk about his back, he still hates it when he isn’t involved in conversations, or can’t break through the language barrier. Luckily for him, when the phrases he’s memorized before arriving in Ho Chi Minh City fall short, Xin’s on hand to smooth things over.
Ray comes to find that not only is it useful to know Vietnamese when speaking with his colleagues and students, it helps him understand more about Vietnamese culture. As a translator, it kills me trying to convert foreign concepts that are really succinctly expressed and well understood in their native language but sometimes take many words to explain in English! Like “irusu”: Japanese for being at home but pretending you’re not, so you don’t answer the door when someone knocks. How about “fremdschämen”, German for secondhand embarrassment? Or “tartle”, Scottish for the hesitation that happens when you try to introduce someone to a third party, but you can’t remember the name of the person you’re introducing. English should totally adopt these words!
A Vietnamese gesture Ray picks up is also something I wish was used all over the world. You hold your hand up, fingers slightly curled like you’re loosely holding an apple, and turn your wrist from side to side – sort of like screwing in and unscrewing a light bulb – to show “I’d like to do that, but I can’t.” Whenever someone asks the impossible, or perhaps asks for just a small favor you aren’t in the mood to grant right now? Twist twist. Somehow it’s gentler than stating aloud “Nope” or shaking your head, and because it hints at your regret, the other person is less likely to challenge it with a ‘Why not?” It’s a powerful refusal that’s as easy to communicate as waving hello.
Yep, finding out differences and similarities between languages is fun, but also important is learning how people communicate in their own individual way, whether or not you’re speaking the same language. Once Ray and Xin start to understand each other deeply, the real fun begins. I hope you enjoy Ray’s stay in Vietnam as much as he does, and come find me online to gush about languages!
With a shot at happiness in sight, it’s no time to drop the ball.
A back condition ruined Ray’s basketball ambitions, but he wants one last opportunity to play before hanging up his sneakers. While volunteering as a coach at a special needs school in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, he meets Singaporean Xin, who works matching wealthy corporations with compatible charities. Xin helps the American navigate the local customs in order to see the smile Xin fell for at first sight, but Ray makes sure no one sees how hard it is for him to keep upright, let alone keep enjoying Vietnam and playing the sport he loves.
When Ray’s back pain becomes too great to hide, Xin accommodates him in Ho Chi Minh and in Singapore—and in bed. Ray wants to imagine a future for them but fears he’s damaged goods, and Xin’s obligations in Asia aren’t easily forgotten. Ray won’t be another charity of Xin’s, especially when Xin also needs someone by his side. Their romance will be cut as short as Ray’s basketball dreams unless he can close the Pacific-sized distance between them.
World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.
About the author:
Reece is a human pinball who’s moved around the world 20-odd times in the last 15 years. At the moment she’s in Australia, ignoring her handful of degrees in law, science and other subjects in order to make things up instead. She loves genre-jumping when writing and reading, and seeing diverse characters appear everywhere, as in real life. Although she’s a big fan of twists and drama, good representation of genders, sexualities, and disabilities remains as important to her as ensuring all of her stories end well, because we all deserve a happy ending.