This week my ESI teachers and I will reach the halfway point of our year here overseas. At times like these it is good to be a bit reflective on where we are and where we are going. Today I want to talk about adjusting to the culture here.
I have learned a lot. I’ve learned enough language and culture to feel reasonably comfortable in a restaurant and to read a menu. I’ve learned how to fill out the class book at school for every class and to sign it every time I do. I know where mostly everything is in the supermarket, though there are still surprises from time to time. I have gotten a lot of experience on the domestic and international train and buses here. But one thing I have not dared to attempt is…ride the local buses in my town of Sokolov.
Let me explain. I teach at two schools every weekday that are a mile and a half apart. My flat is very close to one and not so close to the other. So everyday I go to one school, teach in the morning there and then walk across town to the other and then walk home. My daily round-trip commute, if I don’t include any detours, is about 3.1 miles. Utilizing the local bus system here in my town would seem like an obvious choice. It’s cheap and it goes everywhere. So why have I walked for the past five months?
It’s mostly fear of the unknown. Learning stop names and bus routes and numbers and times, it’s hard to master, especially if things are in a different language. But that was the small thing. What I was really afraid of was stepping on bus trying to pay and not having a clue how to do it or how to ask. So I just avoided it and walked. Frankly, I’m kind of tired.
But last night I finally asked a teacher who has been here a long time what to do and expect. Our train station is a 30-minute walk from our flat. It is no fun at all. I decided to try it. I waited for the bus, got on bus, paid for the bus, rode 10 blissful, not cold, sitting minutes in the bus. I got off and turned my head and my lovely green flat building was right in front of me.
The moral of the story? It pays to take risks when you live in a new culture. Because let’s face it…walking in the cold stinks.