Thursday, April 5, 2012
Kleenex vs. Reality
Welcome! If you're reading this, thanks.
I have many moments when I think "Yeah, I've got this down. Oh yeah, I've adapted to this place. That old me that first came here was so naive. Ha! I am so wise. My wisdom overwhelms me." Then, usually what happens after these thoughts is I get annoyed when I overhear someone whispering about that foreigner over there (that's me. It's always me. Even in my hometown, if someone is talking about the incredibly foreign looking person, it's me.) Or I get stonewalled by some bureaucratic process and hit play on my now memorized mental rant about the inefficiency of EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS PLACE. So, maybe I haven't adapted so much. Maybe I don't want to. I have been realizing more and more, though, that I really do compare my adopted home to a version of my original home that, if I could paint a picture of it for you, you might describe as heaven, but a little better. Everything works smoothly in this idealized land. Everyone is polite and waits their turn (post office, people?), but no one waits too long (banks, anyone?). Busses never break down and always run on time, and people only ride busses if they want to save the environment, because gas is free and cars get you everywhere you want to go in 10 minutes. Students are respectful, teachers are wildly educated, schools are clean and churn out overachieving critical thinkers by the thousands every year.
Now, if you are reading this blog, it means that you know me, and you know the place I am describing - the place I am from. Let's call it "Kleenex, Barizona" for the argument's sake. Everyone is polite? I can remember some not-so-polite behaviors. What immediately comes to mind is a woman who spit a mouthful of her pancake breakfast at the bus she had been kicked off of because no food or drinks are allowed. I've never seen that in my new homeland. Yeah, I was on that bus. It took an hour to go anywhere, but I was riding the bus to save money on gas. Yes, my friends, it wasn't free. I have waited for an hour or more at many a post office, bank, government office, and on and on in "Kleenex". My students in the Land of Facial Tissue weren't really that respectful. In fact, I had one threaten me. I've never been threatened here. And not to say this is good or bad, but I haven't had to be trained to recognize homicidal tendencies in students' writings here like I was in "Barizona". I've never even been afraid of a student here. My first week of teaching in "Barizona", a student asked me if he could write a descriptive paper describing the experience of carrying a gun on campus. (My answer was, "Um, no.")
I am generally against comparing the two places, because every place and person is so different, and comparing leads to generalizations that are neither true, healthy, nor useful. But, it is useful for me to remember that the version of my hometown that I created in my mind on the plane on the flight over to my new home is wildly sensationalized. All of the bad aspects were sucked down the airplane vacuum toilet - never to be seen again. (Aside - there is still a part of my mind that believes that the vacuum toilet sprays its contents into the atmosphere over the ocean, and I always say a little prayer that some poor, unsuspecting sailor won't be caught unawares. Can anyone confirm or deny this thought with scientific data? Thanks.) That was a wild aside. In any case, I'll just keep trying to keep everything in perspective. Bureaucracy is bureaucracy everywhere. Being a foreigner involves a lot of paperwork, and yes, I did choose this. Repairmen don't come when they say they will no matter where you are, used car salesmen's job is to rip people off everywhere, and I'm sure in London, Siberia and Nairobi alike car repairs don't work on the first try. So, these are my thoughts today as I wait for the plumber to come for the second time in one week. Do any of you fantasize about life being greener on the other side of the ocean? Can anyone confirm or debunk my vacuum toilet fear?