No matter what brings someone to a new country, they will without fail spend the majority of their time learning how to live in such a new place.
Many people step off the plane only to be inundated with a flurry of indistinguishable words, smells they didn’t even know existed, loud noises that feel out of place and people hustling around like they know where they’re going (because most of them do…amazingly enough). It’s overwhelming and disorienting at the beginning. The new language feels impossible to ever understand. The smells…oh bless those smells…feel like they seep in to your bones. The noises seem constant, random and sometimes unsettling. And those people who are bustling around you don’t exactly stop to check in with you to make sure you know how to get from Point A to Point B.
We’ve lived in Mauritius for a little over four months. We’ve secured a place to live, bought a car, furnished our home, settled in to a routine of work and rest and have started learning the local language. But we still spend so much of our time just learning how to live in this new country.
I noticed how much we have started to understand this country this past Sunday. I was on my way to pick up some friends for a meeting and was in need of an afternoon Coke (How I miss you, Sonic…). I knew that every single shop was going to be closed because they all close down on Sunday afternoons (and Thursday afternoons…which is still weird to me). But I remembered a friend of mine telling me about this one shop that happened to be on the way that is always open when all the other shops close. I grinned from ear to ear with such pride because I felt like a local. I knew where to go. I knew how to get there. And I knew a small fact that’s not a widely known fact to many of the expats.
Now, I did show up at the grocery store later that night to buy some groceries for the week to find it also closed and felt like a goof for thinking it would be open. But we’re getting there, friends!
Most of our life isn’t glamourous. My days are filled with figuring out how to read labels on our food because I can’t read French. Somedays I fail and buy the wrong thing. I still am a terrible driver on the left side of the road often scarring passengers or pedestrians with how close I drive to the edge of the road. We spend hours standing in lines at the bank, the Internet provider, the post office, the grocery store, and a government offices. And we often get to the front of the line to find out that we were in the wrong line the whole time.
Few things about this culture (the way the people think, respond, react, make decisions, communicate with each other, etc.) feel intuitive to us yet which makes simple things about daily life “harder” for us.
But we’re growing. We’re learning. We’re becoming much more patient people. We’re growing in our appreciation for new, for differences. We rest better. We ask better questions of people. We explore more. Adam and I trust each other more. We laugh a lot. And soon those things that felt so hard at first will begin to feel second nature to us.
Maybe not driving on the left side of the road, though…