Deliberate Discomfort


Back home I know everything. Truly. Everything! I know my running routes, what I like for breakfast, and the best coffee in my neighborhood. I know that I like soy milk in my coffee and how to ask for it. I know when to tip and exactly how much. I know where I am and where I’m going, and how to get there.  I know that if I see dog poop on the sidewalk that it is a major infraction of social etiquette and that I have the right to be annoyed and disgusted.

Figuring out the metro

Now I know nothing. Or very little anyway. My social comforts have all been turned upside down. I’m not sure when I have the right of way vs the car or motorcycle. I don’t understand why nobody picks up after their dogs here. I’m constantly lost, and as I try to find the directions on my map, I can’t seem to hold these foreign names in my head for more than two seconds. The metro directions rarely say what I expect them to. I ordered a sandwich vegetal (vegetarian sandwich, right?) and it was tuna. I’m certain I’ve tipped when I shouldn’t have, tipped far too much or too little when I was right to tip, and not tipped when I should have. I don’t know what I’m eating, or what that crunch just was? I don’t see people running so I don’t know, do people not run in Spain?

This is the beauty of travel, and my chosen state for the next four months. Every time I get where I want to go, successfully do what I want to do, or eat what I want to eat, it is a major achievement. On my second day here I even managed to have an entire conversation without English! It went like this:

Me: Un espresso por favor.
Him: (something in Spanish) aqui (here)?
Me: Si
I drink my coffee.
Me: Cuanto quesa? (How much is it?)

Him: (something in Spanish.)
I have no idea so I give him five euros.
He gives me my change
Me: Gracias!
Him: De nada. Adios!
Me: Adios!

It was a beautiful thing!

Nothing here is normal to me yet, but I’m learning some wonderful aspects of the Spanish, or is it European?, culture. For example, I couldn’t understand the system for cars, motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians, as everyone was everywhere! Chaos! But then I realized the beauty of it – nobody seems to feel that they have more of a right to be somewhere than anyone else. In my six days in Barcelona I did not see one frustrated driver, not one exasperated cyclist, not one clueless pedestrian walking into the street with their head in their phone. Everyone seems quite happy to make their way around everyone else. It was so pleasant, and a reminder that different is often not a bad thing.

Now I’m in Uzes, where nobody speaks English, no signs are in English, and there are no British or American tourists. I don’t speak a word of French other than “merci” and “bonjour”, and it is intimidating to say the least. But I still managed to order a croissant this morning thanks to the international signs of pointing, and I found a stunningly beautiful running route through MapMyRun. Our resources are everywhere.

All it really takes is putting the discomfort aside, and knowing that things can be figured out easily enough. What’s the worst that can happen? Not much. Eyes open, and we will always find our way.