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Monday, January 09, 2012

Strangers Like Me

It was on a clear starry nite in a private residence in San Telmo that I would experience my very first "puerta cerrada", a restaurant in the house of someone. Lively chatter in english would accompany me as I picked my way through the 4 or 5 course meal that nite. Dining in the house of someone wouldn't be the only first that nite, there would be another........meeting strangers like me.  Young people from North America who had left everything behind to begin a new life here at the end of the world

If there was any one fictional character that I felt I could relate to in that very moment, it would be a toss up between tarzan or Mowgli from the jungle book when they came face to face with their own kind for the very first time.  As the conversations began to flow all nite long, the feeling of aloneness began to dissipate rapidly. And a light bulb went on inside of me as I realized for the very first time that all that this life change that I made and all that I went through as a result of it was nothing new. Others go through the exact same challenges.

There is a theme that came up that nite and it is a theme that seems to echo with many of the travel blogs of others that I read. It was the topic of how challenging it can be to re-enter back into your own culture after spending time abroad.  It seems like this is a struggle that almost everybody faces whether they are coming home for a visit or to stay. The more technical name for it is "reverse culture shock".

Some of my greatest insecurities and concerns are not knowing what people's feelings towards me are whenever I touch down on Canadian soil. It is obvious that I have an incredible life and with the blessing and favor of God have seen success as a writer, in the area of relationships as well as my other skills like teaching english, social media, filmmaking etc.  But with success comes the big question mark to who is happy and rooting for me and who might be jealous and despise every good news about my life that comes from me.

Argentines are really hard to offend. The majority of them are slow to offend and quick to forgive. And if something does bother them, they are direct about it with you. I don't have to read in between the lines with my Argentine friend or even the expats they live here. What you see is what you get, nothing more and nothing less.

Unfortunately, in the Canadian culture there is sometimes an underlying system of offense. People might see a tweet or hear a comment from you and get upset or get ideas about you and let it boil. And you don't find out until one fine day when they give you a piece of their mind when you least expect it. Or you might just find yourself defriended from facebook when you never saw it coming.  But I would like to back this up by saying that though this behavior does exist in our culture, not all Canadians are like that. All the friends who I pick are direct and honest and don't read in between the lines. And they like me hate that system that exists within our society of unspoken offense and reading in between the lines.

It isn't just me who feels this way. The expats who I was talking to are from America and although it is a different culture than Canada, it did come up the theme that it can be tricky going from dealing with people from one culture to dealing with people from another culture. When I landed back in Canada, within 24 hrs I had gone from spanish to english and from winter to summer! My mind was whirling and in a daze. Buses stopped at their stands without you having to wave to them. And I didn't have to hoard my coins because Canada doesn't have a coin shortage. In addition to that, I had to remind myself that carrying around $100 CDN is not the same as carrying $100 pesos. BIG difference!

But with all the challenges that come with travel and expat life, I must say that on my 2nd return to Canada I was pleasantly surprised by the good in people and it was comforting to know that I still have strong alliances here. A common theme that many of my friends share is that we are all happy but none of us have it all. Some friends of mine have a better financial standing but in terms or career or direction of their lives, they're still not sure what they want to do. While other friends of mine have a more solid direction on where their career path is going to be but they don't have as many resources. For me, I get to travel, live abroad, have a blooming blogsite but i don't have alot of financial security and I don't have roots.

Some days I would love it if I had a home and roots and financial security, a pet and a partner too just like my friends do. And I am sure they wish they could break their routine and do what I do. But it brings me such pleasure to see that I can cross the other side of the world and find people in my homeland who are happy even in the midst troubled economic times. And somehow in being content that they can't have it all, in a funny way they do end up having it all :)


Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas