19 May 2011

Culture Shock, Part 2

Okay, so I thought I was transitioning into the irritation/hostility phase of culture shock a few days ago, and I was proud of myself because it was so mild.  This morning, though, was the point of no return, and I am overwhelmed by its intensity. The reason for the suddenness and intensity was, of course, a triggor--in this case, my shoes were stolen. They weren't just regular shoes, though, they were the most expensive shoes I've ever owned--chacos, the shoe-of-choice for study abroad students, those amazing shoes that are supposed to last for years without wearing out (though I will never find out if that's true), those shoes that I should have paid for but I allowed my parents to buy for me, one more straw of guilt on the camel of my finances. You have to know that everyone and their dog told me these shoes would be indispensable for my field study, you have to know that they were growing on me to the point that I actually liked them, you have to know that they were perfect for protecting me from rocky roads and unidentifiable liquid substances and whatever other horror I see on the road, you have to know about all my cultural sensitivity training in my prep class, where I learned to do as the locals do and always be considerate of my host family, you have to know that on the very first day I came to my host family's house I was directed to leave my shoes outside, like they all did, to keep the house clean, you have to know that I would never ever ever consciously do something that would offend my host family, especially bringing my shoes inside when I'd been specifically instructed not to, you must know that I have only two pairs of shoes to wear in McLeod--my chacos and some cheap plastic shoes for which a street vendor ripped me off, purchased to wear in the shower as my host family does, you have to understand that I was really liking McLeod and feeling confident in my plans for this day when I opened the door to go to the city, and you have to know that the very last thing I expected at that moment was to not see my shoes sitting by the door, and then maybe you'd understand how my culture shock went quickly from honeymoon to anger, why I glared at the people I saw on the street and couldn't decide if I wanted to yell or cry or slap anyone who tried to speak to me, how the rocks beneath my feet on the path to the city, the rocks that I could feel for the first time today, added one by one to the mounting fury that encompassed me while I walked, why I sought out the familiarity of a computer screen and keyboard to get away from everything that makes me mad, and why I've been crying why I write this post.  Anyway, I am feeling less furious by now, it took me about an hour to cool, and fortunately Norbu was very kind:

[10:46:35 AM] Kristen Nicole: hi Norbu, I was planning to come to the school today but I was robbed this morning and I'm really upset
Kristen Nicole: so I don't know if I'll make it today

Norbu: o hhhh
Norbu: wat happened
Norbu: u robbed means like wat

Kristen Nicole: well, someone stole my shoes
Kristen Nicole: they were $100, which is about 5,000 rupees
Kristen Nicole: and now I don't have any shoes to wear for three months
Kristen Nicole: so I'm really upset

Norbu: ohhh thats bad
Norbu: well cheers gal
Norbu: its not great deal...obstacles are the means to make u stronger...all u got to do is over come it...
Norbu: thats like you got to more cautious when watever u do next time...coz u are in different world out here
Norbu: there is a saying " when u know u can't get back things lost or can't undo the past...
Norbu: there's no use worrying or being upset of that
Norbu: but if something can be done or there's any hope...you could do any thing to make it happen...
Norbu: so anyways relax and breathe and jsut get over with it...

Kristen Nicole: okay, I'm working on it
Kristen Nicole: Lands, thank you Norbu
Kristen Nicole: you've really helped
Kristen Nicole: I'm still not sure what I'll wear on my feet for three months, but I'm not as upset anymore

Norbu: buy one shoe...that's it...
Norbu: its not so costly...or a slipper...cost only some hundred ruppees n shoe cost around some hundred to 1500 rs. u can get quite a good items
Norbu: in mcleod ganj

Kristen Nicole: yes
Kristen Nicole: probably
Kristen Nicole: not as good as my chacos, but probably good

Norbu: :)
Norbu: thats the spirit...materialism isnt the perfect solution...all things that one posses must either lose or worn out someday...all thats filled get empty and all things that comes to world must go...so.........

Kristen Nicole: :)
[11:17:56 AM] Kristen Nicole: Thanks Norbu

I may as well share the story of the monk now since there is a small chance that it could provide a miraculously happy ending to this story (hey, I just read Hansel and Gretel this morning, I believe in fairy tale endings)

Yesterday was wonderfully bizarre. After spending the morning working on homework in a cafe, I went wandering about town where I accidentally made the best bargain of my life (and proceeded to not buy the jewelry anyway) and then got lost and ran into a pack of monkeys.  Having just learned that the monkeys have been known to attack and bite people, I became rather nervous, especially when one of the big monkeys growled (?) at me. Then who comes along but Karma! Yes, the very man that my group and I met on the bus to Dharamsala, the one with the funny jokes and hilarious laughter. What are the odds of that? So I told him I was scared of the monkeys and he laughed and walked with me so they wouldn't attack. As we walked I asked him if his name was Karma, and he stopped short. "How do you know that?" I am pretty sure he was freaked out at this point. I quickly explained that I'd been one in the group of students he'd met on the bus, and he laughed and went on about what a small world it is. Indeed!

Irrelevant but funny.

Then I went to a conversation class for English learners where I made some new friends, including a monk who is just beginning to study English. Through a translator I learned that he wanted me to give him private English lessons, and I refused because I already have so much to do this summer. He kept asking, and finally I caved and said that I could help him for only thirty minutes every week, right after the conversation class. After class I realized that I didn't know where we could go, but the translator told me that the monk knew a place we could go. I assumed it would be a monastery--I was wrong! He promptly took my bag and wouldn't let me carry it (is it chivalry or the perfect way to ensure that I actually come with him wherever he goes? Readers, you decide!) and took me to his tiny one-room house, which was actually only a minute's walk from where I'm living. We went over the ABCs a few times, he recorded me saying them, and then I insisted on leaving. He carried my bag again (I think that time was actually chivalry) and ended up sitting in my host family's home, drinking tea and talking to Tankho and Lhamo Kyab for about an hour while I studied Tibetan. And before he left he paid me several compliments (in English, with the aid of a little conversation book and my host family) and made certain that I knew he expected to see me again the next day (which, of course, is today) at the conversation class.

So here's my only hope for my shoes: If they were stolen by someone who intends to wear or sell them, then I don't have a prayer of ever having them again. But! If this monk, who may have taken my bag to ensure that I followed through with a private tutoring session, got it in his head that stealing my shoes was a good way to make sure I come to the conversation class today, then I may get my shoes back at 4:00. It's a long shot, but it's the only hope I have for my dearly departed chacos.

But, most likely, if you come to McLeod tomorrow you'll find me standing in the market, wearing plastic shower shoes, bargaining for a new pair of sandals with the glint of a hardened traveler in my eye.

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