Friday, June 1, 2007

small cultural adaptations

we've been in australia almost five months.  of course this is the longest period of time i've had in this country, or any other country.  i know there must be certain cross-cultural thresholds of learning and adapting - three month, one year, two years, etc.  it seems i've been here just long enough to edge past a line in a few mundane areas of life.

i can cross the street without a thought.  this is a significant accomplishment since my and isaac's safety depends on it.  it's become a reflex and i don't have to stop and speak to myself with the mantra "look right, then left."

handling currency is much easier.  the other day i needed to quickly give change and i managed it without pause.  since the australian dollar is comprised of coins only below $5, initially i found it difficult to sort through them without closely studying each piece.  i remember back to march at forge's DS2 conference when geoff and i were working the bookshop.  when it came to give change, i just stood there with my palm outstretched,  full of coins and said "take what you need."  i've come a long way.

substantial progress has occurred for me with respect to requesting a toilet/bathroom/restroom/loo.  when in australia or england, i've always found it awkward to ask, as they do, "where's your toilet?"  it seems a bit improper to me to bring up, in a sentence, the piece of plumbing used for matters not discussed in the company of others.  i think that is why we (americans) use something indirect and discreet such as "bathroom."  it's a safe, general term.  early on, i would sheepishly say, "excuse me, where is your t-, t-, t-, bathroom", more comfortable with relying on a conspicuously american label, then using the "t" word.  so the other morning, maybe around 5 a.m., isaac was in bed with us and geoff was trying to slyly sneak out of bed without waking him (we've both been waking early to get reading done).  within a minute, isaac sits up and asks "where's daddy?"  at that wee hour, without a blink and a little bit grumpy, i said "he's in the toilet."  i felt liked i'd arrived and i didn't even know it.  it's the small things really. 

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