Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Starting over

In Moz, I had a drawer full of spices. I left them all there. I need to start over again, accumulating my collection frequent, regular and rarely used spices. Moving from one country to another means that I need to start over with everything--the basics like salt, oil, flour and baking ingredients. Things that rarely all run out at the same time. It also means that we need to start over with communication devices (cell phones, landlines, internet), a car, insurance, etc. It all takes time and at times all the decisions seem overwhelming. We're doing it slowly but surely.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Socially Awkward

I don't generally consider myself a socially awkward person (if you know me and think I am, please keep it to yourself). However the act of returning to one's own culture after years away, renders some disconnect and gaps in conversation.

When first entering a new culture, I expect awkwardness. I don't know people; I don't know the culture; I don't know the language and conversation flows about as easily as a uncoordinated teenager learning to drive stick-shift up hill. That's expected. Meeting other foreigners is also disjointed but there's the easy questions--where are you from? what organization brings you here? how long have you been here/overseas? where do you live? etc.

But now, coming back to the States, I know the language in terms of vocabulary,though sometimes I feel like I've lost the rhythm and nuances underneath the words. In other words, I no longer have the cultural understanding that brings meaning. Sometimes it feels like there is no place to begin a conversation, as if my other world experiences prevent me from knowing how to converse here. It's not just my experiences that create a gap in understanding but also how much culture has changed too--media, technology, where someone my age "should" be financially/career-wise.

One of the biggest cultural changes I am noticing is how limited conversations are. People are in a hurry. Conversations are three sentences long. So even if I had questions or thoughts to contribute to the conversation, it's over before it began.

When people find out that I've spent the past five years overseas, it's interesting for a few seconds, enough to ask something benign like, "How'd you like it?" or "That was quite the experience". I know to expect that. I just didn't expect that my taking an interest in someone else would be as short.