Busted!

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I have a vivid memory of a time more than twenty years ago that I and a coworker messed up a bit on this worldview window concept. We were working with refugees through a nonprofit resettlement organization in Texas. We both needed to visit the same newly arrived Vietnamese family to get different sorts of information from them. We were working diligently to help them settle into a new life. As we were there in their house talking with the parents, a young woman walked in and sat down. I looked at her and saw, with some distress, large, long, stripe-like red welts on her neck. She smiled at us, but she seemed sad. After we finished gathering the information we needed and got in the car, we began to talk. “Did you see that?” We decided that she must have been tortured. Yes, that was it. We had both previously seen torture victims and had heard their excruciating stories. But when we got back to the office, and were still talking about this, another employee overheard us, and she was amused!

Our coworker had had much more extensive experience with Southeast Asian cultures, and had even had a Vietnamese roommate for several years. She clued us in to what presumed we had seen. There is a practice called “coining,” usually involving a hot coin, oil, and some pressure. The coin is rubbed against the skin with force, causing abrasion on the skin. Coining is a folk medicine remedy used to treat sore throats, respiratory issues, and other illnesses. Some explanations given for it are that it brings “bad winds,” “negative energies,” evil spirits, or just germs and draws them out of the body through the coined area. 

That worldview window inside of our heads had gotten both of us. What had we assumed in this situation? We thought that our experiences and understanding gave us enough information to decide what had happened to the girl. We presumed to interpret what we saw through our own limited experiences. Obviously, that was not accurate!