A while back, a friend of mine tagged me (Beth) to write about how I’ve changed since I moved overseas. Then, shortly after she did that, we made our trip to the states (see posts below), and I was made painfully aware of how much I’ve changed since we left America on December 30, 2005.
So, here are a few of the ways—some silly, some a bit more meaningful—that I have been modified over the past 21 months:
1. Different attitude toward space. In a city with this many people in an area this small, everything is pretty jam-packed together. The buildings, the stores, the cars, and the people inside them. So when we got to Florida, I couldn’t believe all the space you people think you need on the road, in your shopping aisles, and between your houses! There’s so much wasted space!
2. Being a pushy hostess. Cultural protocol here demands that you offer something 2 or 3 times before a guest will accept it. My mom and grandmother are great at being pushy…err, I mean, persistent…hostesses, but I am not. I’m still not great at it here, either, but I’m working on it.
3. Drinking without ice. When we had it coming out of our refrigerator door, I always drank my water or coke with ice, but here, since we have to make our own and the locals never use it, I hardly ever do, either.
4. Not smiling all the time. This is a big one. Those of you who knew me in my former life know that in many circles I was known as the “one who smiles all the time.” Just last week, a friend from college told me, “I remember how you always smiled while you blow dryed your hair.” She’s right, I did. Now I still smile, but not as much, especially not when I’m out by myself. I would draw all kinds of attention (not the good kind) and just look really weird to people here.
5. Drinking hot drinks. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, or really big on drinking any hot beverages, but that’s another thing that’s just part of life here. Hot tea is the most common, so I drink that when I’m served it, but I prefer “erfa,” which is a drink made from hot water, milk, cinnamon, and sugar. It’s delicious, and I drink it at least once a day in the winter and occasionally during the summer.
6. Talking about bodily functions. Ok, so this is a little gross, but I know my other overseas friends will understand. When you live in a third-world country with all kinds of germs and diseases your body’s not used to, you just find yourself talking about things that you never did before—out of necessity, not for the fun of it. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
7. Sending my kids to daycare. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine sending my kids to any kind of daycare on a regular basis. Now, I do it five days a week and don’t feel bad about it.
8. Dressing up. I am still getting accustomed to the Arab idea that going out of your house is always a reason to dress up. I wear dress pants or skirts most days, never wear tennis shoes and rarely flip-flops (my Arab friends would wonder why I’m wearing my house shoes in public). For someone whose friends teased her in high school for always wearing jeans and a sweatshirt (no, I was not a frontrunner for Best Dressed), this is a big change.
9. I’ve learned to be comfortable in unfamiliar places. There was a time when being by myself in a place I’ve never been before at 12:30 in the morning not sure which way is home and surrounded by people who don’t speak English would have tripped me out. When it happened this week, I honestly handled it just fine—and made it home! (That story will have to wait until another post. This one is already too long.)
Now I tag Angela W, Charity V, and Whitney S. :)