Zagreb, Day 10: Aliens and Peanut Butter
Today was sort of a depressing day for me here. I don’t ever experience “homesickness” (I’m too caught up in the adventure nor do I usually feel a bond to my own culture’s terms of familiarity–I don’t care about celebrity gossip, Starbucks, or Major League baseball) but that is the closest feeling I can ascribe it to, at least in a sense that I think anyone could relate.
I felt alone. Not lonely, mind you. Not needing to be in the company of others. Not desiring that. But simply alone. Yet keeping my game face on, smiling, trying to trudge through the muck, wisely knowing that the feeling will pass. Part of visiting other cultures is that you have to adapt. You are the foreign object inserting yourself and it is your duty to acclimate to that environment enough that you are not resisted or thrusted out. I don’t mind this challenge… it’s an interesting test of finding out who I am and I like to look at the positives of that.
When I was in the third grade, my teacher gave us this really weird assignment. We were paired up with a classmate and one of us was “an alien from another planet.” The other was an Earth citizen. The Earth citizen had to explain to the alien what peanut butter was, how you used it, what it tasted like, and a bunch of things most people don’t even think about when they think about peanut butter. The exercise was multi-faceted. First, it helped exercise our ability to communicate and share information in laymen’s terms to people who may not have a precise technical understanding, but it also prepared us for an age where globalization has made multinational corporations a norm and people are constantly traveling back and forth–an age where we are constantly meeting people and having to introduce and share bits of our culture. Whenever I have to explain something really basic and obvious to me to another person, I will refer to that as me “explaining peanut butter to an alien,” because that’s what it reminds me of!
Part of introducing yourself into a different culture means compromising bits of your own culture in deference to that culture. At first I looked at this negatively, but I realized that it wasn’t a negative. It’s me letting myself grow. It’s me letting the world touch my inside, me letting the world show me things I cannot see in a dark room. And that I have to own up to it… this is what I respect about myself. I want to see everything. I want to do everything. And I do just that. So I know the depressing feeling will pass and that ultimately, I will look back on the feeling with a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that feeling this way was a good thing… and that it passed was an even better thing. That I’m the alien, and I walked away knowing peanut butter is something you stick in your mouth, not in your butt.
So I’m sure tomorrow will be much better. I’m sure I will have an adventure once again. I’m sure I will be laughing and smiling and noticing dumb, silly things. That’s what I’m here for–to live. To experience <3.