Friday, December 24, 2010

New frames of reference

Earlier this week we received an email from World Learning (the organization through which Princeton has a program in both Serbia and Ghana) which was sent to all participants in their study abroad-type programs. All other participants, however, were on semester-based programs so the email provided support as we integrate back into American living. The lovely workers also suggested that we enjoy being "home for the holidays" further proving that our program is unique as we are the only to which this fortunately and unfortunately isn't applicable.

Though it isn't the most appreciated in my inbox, the email probed me to thoughtfully reflect on my walk home from work. When I got home I flipped through the first dozen or so entries in my journal and many of my initial observations surprised me since in the past four months Serbian living has become instinctual. My Hawaii/American frame of reference is certainly still existing, but now Serbia has its own frame which muddles the other two. My fourth entry I merely listed a few dozen differences and since I hadn't referenced this since it was written I realized how nearly all of these differences have become so familiar that it's very bizarre to imagine myself ever being perplexed by them.

For instance it is customary to wear 'slippers' or papuce inside the house at all times. My host mom would bring my slippers to my side when I forgot them my first few weeks here. A couple of days ago I found myself alone in the apartment which is very rare as there's always a happy clamor of family and friends -- unannounced but always welcome visitors knock on the door weekly. I stood up to get a glass of water and I seriously felt a chill run through my body as I stepped onto the tiled kitchen floor without my blessed papuce. Barefoot indoors (and often outdoors) for eighteen years and it took less than four months for the concept of unrobed toes to seem a quandary. Now I'll admit the change in climate might warrant more conservative dress but this reverse is hardly unique. Whether it's the custom of never walking out of the apartment with wet hair, the windows that open two directions, or eating bread at every meal, Serbia's culture has blended into my thought's fabric and it will be interesting in five months to become, as the email stated, "reacquainted with America".

1 comment:

  1. And once you get reacquainted with America (presumably Hawaii?), you'll then get to be introduced to the other side of America...the fearsome East Coast--where it, you know, is cold and stuff.