A hot summer afternoon. After 2,5 hour bus ride from Hai Phong , I pushed the bike hard, reaching Onion Cellar. Here I come at last, after two weeks of imagination, expectation and following in that group.
ECBC is short for English Chinese Billingual Club. Out of many clubs in Hanoi, ECBC filters its members pretty well. With more than 1000 members, there are only 10 core folks regularly take turn to host and keep the flame burning. Groups in Facebook are like that afterall.
The fact that there are only around 10 core members and they are all excellent makes it more elite. I believe they are confident enough to know that and at the same time modest enough to refuse the “Elite” term. “No we welcome everyone”, they would reply. They actually do. The first time Thuy, the student from Foreign Trade University approached me to ask “Do you wanna join us?”, she clearly seemed to be very sincere.
However, be prepared to be challenged. The invisible fence around that group maybe a bit loose, but you need to be proactive to get inside.
Sorry, maybe it’s just me with over-sensitive feelings. ^^
Back to the 2 hour discussion. A combination of spontaneousness and smooth arrangement I would say. People choose a topic from the previous session, and it’s not just the leader say “A” and everyone agree.
Dinh Minh: I am thinking of “netizen”
Others: What do you mean by that?
Dinh Minh: I mean, like, people nowadays spend a lot of time in the internet, and it’s becoming like a real world with real consequences.
Le Minh: You mean public shaming? How can we avoid anyone to do that? Even in real life?
Thom (host): Can you narrow it down? I cannot imagine what we would say.
Others: Yes, let’s make it just a few words.
Minh was frustrated for a while. This man is good at big picture thinking and since he knows a lot, it’s hard for him to narrow things down. Maybe narrowing something down also means limiting the chance to give out interesting arguments, who knows?
I almost forgot to mention that just a few minutes before that, I shoot some attacking words towards Thom, our host, a bilingual 22 year old confident student by commenting bluntly:
I think the topic today is boring. What? Survival instinct? We would have to imagine and be proactive to really get involved. Better choose something controversial
And to my aggressiveness, she calmly replied:
If we always choose something we are used to, it’s not challenging at all. We need to get out of our comfort zone and willing to talk about things we don’t know well.
I was suprised and a bit embarrassed. I am not used to this. Normally I am used to the feeling of being winner in arguments. Here I am having a premise broken down by a girl 2 years younger. Moreover, she speaks perfect English, let alone possessing a high command of Chinese.
Well, it’s getting interesting, I think. Maybe I come here for this.
Thuy : Last week we talked about food safety.
Me: really? Did you fight about it?
Minh: No, we had a very pleasant sharing.
I didn’t expect any of that and when the truth was revealed, a pleasant surprise poured over me. After all, this is a bunch of youngsters who are eager, active, willing to share and challenge themselves and each other. Sometimes they fight, sometimes they just share in peace.