RE: temporal leave-taking

From: altamira (
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 22:59:26 MDT

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Amara Graps
> My "place in society"? Doesn't exist for me. I could walk into any
> place and act like a completely different person, and no one would
> know that it wasn't me, and there would be absolutely
> no repercussions.

Do you think your personality has changed more during the 2 years you've
been in Germany than it would have changed if you'd stayed in the US?

>It's a (very) bizarre kind of freedom.

Have you tried out many different personas?

Occassionally I get an urge to go someplace entirely different and start a
whole new life. It's a totally fanciful urge that would involve sneaking
onto a moving freight train or hitch hiking, leaving all my possessions
behind, changing my name. I've heard that in certain parts of India the men
used to leave their homes after their children were grown, and spend some
time wandering around the country with only the clothes they had on and a
bowl. The bowl would be filled by kind strangers. Or not filled sometimes,
I guess.

 The closest I've ever come to the train-hopping fantasy is moving to
Chicago and living in a downtown apartment only a couple of blocks from the
office building where I worked. Not nearly so drastic as what you're doing,
Amara, but I was with a whole different group of people and living a far
different lifestyle than I was used to. After a while, I found myself
thinking of moving to the suburbs where I could have a dog and a garden. I
have no doubt that's exactly what I would have done if I hadn't decided that
the winters were too cold in Chicago. So I would have been right back in the
lifestyle I'd left behind. A cousin of mine (my cousin Lizzie's sister,
actually) moved to the small town near my home after spending 14 years in
Manhatten. That's been a bit of a cultural shock for her. No decent
restaurants within walking distance, for one thing.

Once or twice I've tried participating on internet lists with a sex-neutral
name to see if I could be a completely *neutral* person. But I found it
really difficult to express myself without my personality creeping into the

 It's even
> more bizarre operating at about a language understanding of 50%,
> like living every day as a partial deaf-mute.

Yeah, I have some idea of how that would be. The thing I miss the most when
I'm using a language in which I'm not fluent is being able to have a REAL
conversation; it's especially bad not knowing the slang and not
understanding the humor. Of course, my attempts at speaking often provide
all the humor one could want. (I just had a vision flash through my mind of
the Monty Python skit where this guy has a German-to-English phrase book and
is trying to ask directions to some place in London from a rather large
woman. He reads from the book, "You have lovely breasts, Madame." She
whacks him with her wallet, as he stares at her with a totally bewildered

When I'm in a country where I'm not too good at the language I often seek
out very old people. They tend to have the patience to speak slowly and
draw out of me the words I'm searching for. Old ladies sitting on church
steps begging for money are especially wonderful people. I always look for
them, and oddly enough they always accept me without question and let me sit
and talk to them, as though God has sent me to entertain them. When I get up
to leave after hanging out for an hour or so, they usually say their
language's form of "God bless you," and I do feel truly blessed, but by the
old ladies themselves.

> My two best friends currently are a Greek and a German. I'm surrounded
> with Germans (mostly), and then Italians, Austrailians, French, British,
> Mexicans, Hungarians. My office-mate is Russian. There has been noone of
> my culture around me during the last 2 years. Sometimes it's hard to
> find my equilibrium being among so many unfamiliar cultures for so long.
> But people over history have done this during war times. And it could be
> more difficult. My father left his home country forever during WWII.
> Now I find that completely daunting.

I like to hear the life stories of people like your father. For some
reason, I feel hopeful and uplifted by the lives of those people. Maybe
because their stories are a reminder that there are always options, and also
because they inspire courage.


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