Friday, October 07, 2005

Other places

Someone asked recently in this discussion forum what people had learned from living in other places and teaching, and it really made me think. I have only lived* in two other countries in my life, though I've traveled to a few more, and I've also only lived in three other states, aside from the one I was born in.

That may be impressive by some people's standards, but by the time he was my age, my dad had already lived in five countries on three and a half different continents. Anyway, whether I am well-traveled by your standards or not, I have definitely learned some stuff from teaching and from living in other places:

Patience. Lots and lots of it.

Tolerance for heat and cold and wet. Even when I'm not on a camping trip.

The importance of sunblock when you're living under an ozone hole.

If you don't want to eat 10 times your body weight every time you visit someone, you had better eat really slowly and always make it look like you're taking seconds without actually taking much food. Same goes for alcohol consumption.

Most of the time, it's actually nicer to have a friend show up at your door unannounced than to make elaborate get-together plans the week before.

When to laugh at myself, and when to stand up for myself.

Always to carry a packet of kleenex or a small amount of toilet paper with me. Always.

Food from street vendors is usually delicious. Even if it makes you sick.

It's good to try anything once. Unless I have solid proof that it will kill me, get me incarcerated, or do that to someone else.

Even people with strong stomachs and lots of travel experience get altitude sickness. Coca leaf tea is a good thing. Other coca leaf products not so much.

Drinking with friends around a bonfire on the beach beats a nightclub any day. Especially if there's a guitar involved.

Rotisserie chicken and french fries are soooo much better than fast food.

Teaching others is a great way to learn about yourself. For me, it showed me that I am braver, smarter, more adaptable and kookier than I had ever thought.

Getting lost is a part of life. Asking for directions is a good idea.

Politeness and courtesy are highly underrated, especially in the US. However, this doesn't mean that they aren't sometimes used to mask meanness or incompetence.

You don't really want to know how polluted the air and water are, at least not if there's nothing you can do about it personally.

Not all American traditions are bad. Recycling and Thanksgiving are both awesome, but also rather hard to reproduce on other places.

Poetry is good for the soul.

Dancing is good for the soul, too.

And knitting,** of course!

It is possible to accept and be accepted by another culture, and to have elements of it become a part of me. Even if I will never truly be completely a part of it.

*For these purposes, I'm defining "live somewhere" to mean staying in a place for more than a month, with intentions beyond being a tourist (such as study or employment).

**For the fiber-obsessed, I apologize for the lack of knitting content. I've been resting my wrist. And anyway, the only project I've been working on is a secret until December.

***Thanks to NASA and Globe for the pics.
Next time: a book review and some knitting content. I promise!


austin's dad said...

I like this piece, thanks to "the lack of knitting content" :)

you can be a good teacher. I believe your foreign experiences have enriched your mind a lot. I feel sorry for those who have never lived outside their origin countries, what a huge portion of life they have missed!

medea said...

I can certainly relate to your post as a third culture kid myself. Living overseas or in a different area is the cultural equivalent to throwing the baby into the water and seeing if it sinks. You adapt or become excluded.

And street food is definitely one of those "what I don't know won't hurt me" deals. If it looks good, eat it, enjoy it and don't try to figure out how it was made.

Repeat to yourself while licking your fingers: "Any dirt adds taste, and microbes and bacteria help boost my immune system"

Zarzuela said...

What a great post! You must have had some really interesting experiences.