Wednesday, October 5, 2016

my little bubble

A friend of mine recently posted an interesting article titled "I lived in Korea for 5 years. Here's what happened when I came home to Nebraska."  Its an interesting reflection from someone who has lived the expat life for five years and if you would like to read it you can find it here:

The thing that struck me the most about this wasn't the part about moving from a big city back to a small town or the difference in eating or even the way peoples eyes glaze over and they want to make their one week trip to Cancun somehow the same as you immersion into and adapting to another culture. Though all of these are true.

The part that really struck me was the discussion about sound. More importantly to me, the way I have learned to tune out sound when I am in a country and don't speak the language.

Before I go any further let me say that I have made attempts. In Indonesia I dutifully signed up for language class but I was surrounded by people who spoke English so my Bahasa Indonesia deteriorated to the "polite words" and telling the taxi driver how to get to my house.
I'm also currently taking Arabic. A task I find a bit daunting but am willing to at least get some basics down.

Here's the thing though. Even if I master the ability to have a basic conversation in Arabic, I will never fully understand everything that goes on around me. As a consequence I find I tune out if I can't understand what I'm hearing.

I've been recently pondering the pros and cons of this. On one hand I generally go blissfully about my business. I've been told that Jordanian men can sometime harass women on the street, much like major cities in the U.S. I find that this hasn't happened. Maybe because I'm such an old lady or maybe it is happening and I just don't realise. I'm pondering the danger of this but I do know that I am aware enough to be alert to danger around me but not so much that conversations catch my interest. I move about in my happy little bubble.

Until I land in an English speaking country. The cacophony of words. Suddenly I am immersed in everyones business. The first thing I notice as I get off the plane is the that suddenly I understand everything going on around me. And America, its true, we are loud! Everyone speaks at such a high volume. I have a tip for you. Nothing you are saying is private. All of this really hit home this year on our first Home Leave for the State Dept.

So when people ask me what it is like to live somewhere where I don't speak the language. My first thought is to be grateful for all the people who speak English as their second language and my second thought is how peaceful it is to live in my little bubble.

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