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09.06.2004 | 1 2
continued from page 1

If youíre a smart person whoís ever wondered what itís like to feel really, really dumb on a daily basis, move to another country. Suddenly, youíll find that acts as simple as using a computer at the public library or getting a drink at a bar send your brain into a flurry of confusion. Having spent $100K to get yourself good and educated, you hold up the checkout line while trying to figure out which funny-shaped coins will produce the proper amount to cover your Orange Fanta. When you ask directions to a street whose name youíre inevitably mispronouncing, you donít understand what the nice local tells you; ever-friendly, he repeats it slowly, in a louder voice, the way you do when youíre talking to your hard-of-hearing, senile grandfather. When you still canít decipher what heís saying, you smile blankly, nod vigorously, and shuffle off in a direction that is invariably the complete opposite of where youíve just been instructed to go.

To some extent, this is something that any relatively well-traveled person has experienced. But moving to another country feels a lot different than tooting off on a visit. As a tourist, you donít really have to embrace the culture. Sure, you can hang out with the locals at the little neighborhood cafe, and stock up on picnic goodies at the local market rather than those supermarket chain store monstrosities youíre used to back home. But for the most part, youíre a voyeur, peeking from the outside at a way of life thatís different from your own. You can try your best to get a taste Ė and you should Ė but thereís no need to commit to this other way of life because in seven days, two weeks, whatever, youíll be back in the safe comforts of whatever burg you call home. When youíre actually living in some strange new country, itís a whole Ďnother ball game, and youíre not a spectator, but a player whoís not quite clear on all the rules. 

You wouldnít think things would be so different living in Edinburgh.  The movie posters all advertise the same Hollywood dreck we see in the States; familiar names like McDonalds, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut anchor every other street corner.  This is the UK, not some third-world country; heck, they even speak English. On the grand scale of things, lifeís not a whole lot different here.

No, itís in the tiny details of day-to-day living that Iím having the hardest time. As I try to settle into this city that feels so foreign in every sense of the word, I canít just pretend I know whatís going on when Iím having a conversation with the bank person, or the realtor, or the health services receptionist, and I realize that thereís the English I learned back home in the States, and the English they speak here. And that the gap between the two sometimes feels huge. This is why Iím constantly having to say ďIím sorry?Ē and cock my head quizzically, admitting my cluelessness, even though I hate how dumb it makes me feel. Because itís ultimately more important that I get an apartment, have access to moolah, find a doctor Ė make something resembling a life. And thatís the part Iím looking forward to, the thing that gets me smiling again when I start feeling too sorry for myself.

So Edinburgh, itís not home for meÖ yet. But Iím getting there, one dumb question at a time. Speaking of which, anyone know where I can score some chocolate chips in Edinburgh?


past editor's notes |  08.05.2004 ē 02.04.2002 ē 01.04.2001 ē 08.28.2000 ē 03.30.2000 ē 02.16.2000

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