The adjustment phase…and hope!
Assimilating to a different culture is one of those concepts that you really can’t understand until you’ve experienced it. It’s like an earthquake: you can think about buildings shaking and the ground breaking, but you have no idea what the word “earthquake” actually means until you feel the jolt yourself (side note: no, I’ve never been in an earthquake, but I have experienced an impressively realistic—but, I guess I really can’t say that–simulation at the tech museum in San Jose).
I had thought about “adjustment” before I left Chicago, but in every picture I had concocted of the process, I was sauntering through it. Somehow it didn’t really occur to me that changing my sleeping, eating and exercise habits while at the same time completely exchanging friends, families and languages would be a difficult process. Not surprisingly, I now report that: it is.
It’s so hot I haven’t yet touched the warm-water knob on the shower, I don’t understand half of what my teachers say in class, I’m not sure which classes I’m actually enrolling in, there aren’t any vegetables, I can’t remember my address, it takes me an hour to do ten pages of reading, and I talk like a three year old.
I’m am absolutely sure that I will look back on these past two weeks and consider them some of the most worthwhile of my life. But right now, I’m just glad they’re over.
Now I’m on to the good stuff!
For instance, today I went to Progresso. My classes somehow got conveniently scheduled so that I don’t’ have class on Fridays (now who did that?), so my friends and I found a bus that made the twenty-minute trip to the beach for $1.30 per person. The ocean water was impossibly warm and the sun not so harsh with the pleasant sea breeze. Most people have to pay for a cruise in order to have the pleasure of spending an afternoon in Progresso. For us, it was a day trip. We can go after classes if we want.
We also ventured into one of the more economical restaurants in Progresso. It wasn’t tailored to tourists, the menu was in Spanish and it looked like the sort of place that our stomachs might have to pay for hours later. But, deciding we had to eat like locals sooner or later, we sat down and ordered some pollo mole and empanadas. It was absolutely delicious. It cost $18 for five meals with drinks. And my stomach is happily digesting without protest.
In other good news, I found a salsa studio a few blocks away from my house that I’ve been taking classes at. They’re pretty intense for beginner classes, but they’re taught in a very low-pressure follow-the-leader style, so nobody notices when I literally trip myself. I really enjoy going because it’s a different type of incompetence than my language disability. Oddly enough, it’s kind of refreshing to struggle in a different way for an hour.
Despite the struggles of both, I think there’s hope for both the Spanish and the dancing. Today my “uncle” told me my Spanish has gotten better since he spoke to me on Sunday. And today in salsa class…ok, so I’m still waiting on the compliment for that. But I’m sure it’s coming…