Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Lady In Wellington Boots

Sometimes you feel lost in the vernacular of conversation that hustles and bustles around you. There is only so much you can communicate through hand gestures and body language and whoever said 60% of human communication is down to body language, is a liar. For a start, body language and the way you hold yourself is a purely cultural thing. For instance it is considered rude to point here, it is considered rude to gesture somebody towards you by flicking your hand. The elderly lady in wellington boots who works in the bus station next to my school was trying to tell me something yesterday and I had no way to understand her, much like she had no way to understand me. This isn’t the case with everybody you come into contact with, I went out for dinner and drinks with my school two nights ago (I night in which I drank so much soju against my better judgement, that I felt like a sky diving accident) and although some people who I work with speak little to no English we are able to get by. It doesn’t mean it’s not difficult. Everywhere you look there is a new language barrier challenge, waiting for you.

Travelling in English speaking countries is easy, indeed travelling in non-English speaking countries who have western cultures (most of Europe for instance) can be easy. Here, living and working among people who don’t speak English and don’t know about your culture can be quite a challenge. One that is equally as rewarding as it is demanding, you can get a sense of achievement from buying a bus ticket or ordering food at a restaurant. It’s bittersweet.

I’ve been working at my school for nearly a week now and I’m starting to settle in, even now my co-workers are shouting across the office in a language I can’t for the life of me decipher. I took my first classes yesterday and they went very well, my kids are sweet and my co-teachers are humble. Lunch has been an interesting experience on a daily basis. Yesterday I struggled, I’m not sure what I was eating but I was sure I didn’t like it. Whatever drink that is served everyday has a sweet tang to it as well, note to self: bring water. It’s enjoyable though and you never know what’s going to happen next. No seriously, you don’t. At a moment’s notice you’ll be swept off to do something, or teach a class, or have a class cancelled. There is very little planning here, people tend to just go with the flow. See what happens.

I’ve missed home on and off, there are moments when I just want to get in my car and drive to the forest, take the dog for a walk and spend time with the people I love. There are other times when I’m so swept up in this new experience that it all feels worthwhile. I suppose when you sum all of it up travel is about highs and lows. It’s important to miss home just as much as it is important to ‘not think about it’. When it comes down to it, I’ll arrive back in England a better person (hopefully) with new experiences and new perspectives all under my belt, and that’s what it’s all about right? Doesn’t mean I’ll be able to communicate with the elderly lady in wellington boots, but just being here is a good start.

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