Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You say pommes de terre, I say potato

Part of the process of assimilation into a new culture is comparing it to the culture you have just left behind. Differences and similarities abound, to be sure. The similarities tend to be comforting. But they are always closely followed by the disparities. For example, there are many, many American shows on our telly. There are quite a few American shows that I never even watched in the US! Be that as it may, when I am watching an American show, I tend to be lulled by the familiarity of it, in particular by the American accents and words. Suddenly, a commercial (er, advert) comes on, and blasts me back to reality. Generally, I can understand what is said, although not always. Again, the accents are clearly different. And, usually, the products are, too.
Maybe that discrepancy will always be apparent. Maybe in time, I won't even notice such things. After all, there are plenty of American accents in the adverts, and plenty of British actors on American shows.
It's like when I am walking down the street here. Just in my neighborhood, when I pass people who are conversing, easily half the time they are not speaking English of any kind! Most often, I hear French or German.
All of this reminds me, throughout the day, that I am in a foreign country. And I am guest here. I wonder when I will feel at home here? When I stop comparing?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stuff and Nonsense

I'd spent the last several weeks, our first days in London, living with only what I'd packed into a suitcase. We have had little else but the bare household necessities that were rented for us via the relocation package. It's been one step above camping.
The air shipment, of about 12 cartons of our belongings, was supposed to have been delivered in 1 to 2 weeks of its leaving our home. The ash cloud, after delaying our own arrival, also delayed the shipment of our things. Three weeks after we left our US home, our boxes arrived on our doorstep.
I had been eagerly anticipating their delivery. I was not really sure, or maybe only sure in a general sense, of what was in the boxes. The craziness of those final days left my brain in such a bewildered state. I tried to stay focused and organized, tried to think ahead to what we might truly need and want after the first week or two. How did I think that I'd want 5 kitchen towels but no oven mitts? Or a six month's supply of toothpaste and Advil, but not a trash can? Or all the hanging clothes in my closet, but not one of daughter's stuffed animals?
Truthfully, I did spend a great deal of time in those expectant days before the boxes came, thinking about "stuff." I thought about its meaning and importance. I thought about its relative unimportance, actually, when compared with, say, our health or happiness. Do we really, truly need all this stuff, in order to be happy? I am telling myself that, no, we don't need any of it. But the truth remains, we want it. It was incredibly comforting to unpack my cooking utensils, the familiar old forks and knives,my yoga mat, the duster, my sneakers (sorry, trainers), even the toilet plunger! I obviously thought that was vital!!
I could live another long time without any of it. But in these days of newness, when everything is strange and unfamiliar, it is nice to see these little bits of home.
Now I can turn my attention to the next big event: the sea shipment. More STUFF. Remind me of this when I am wondering where I am going to put all of it.