Sunday, August 11, 2013

With D in the D

I have realized that I do not know how to talk to people here anymore.  I may have mentioned this before, but now I know why.  I am not used to talking to someone who is a complete stranger.  In Togo, I met few strangers.  A fellow PCV isn't a stranger, even if you have never met her before.  You have a lot in common before you open your mouth to say hi, you can make all kinds of assumptions and be pretty close to right on most of them.  Since I am obviously not west African, Togolese made all kinds of assumptions about me, and were usually fairly right.  Unless they thought I was French.  The point being that there were all sorts of bases for conversation and small talk.  Stuff like "how is your health? and your family? and the work? where are you from? what is the weather like there? do you have children?" etc.  Even the most formulaic conversations, of which west Africans have many because they are polite,  impart a lot of information and let you get a sense of the person you are talking to, even if its in passing.  Here though, I cant even order a coffee without feeling completely at a loss for what to say.  "Do I ask how he is? Do I make some comment about something even though he will think I am freakin' weird?" etc. I know that societal norms here dictate that it is not necessary for me to ask "how's it going" to the waitress. But dammit, what am I suppose to say?   There is this empty silence embracing many of my casual interactions here that leaves my mouth hanging open in a void.  I went from a society of polite, albeit formulaic, social interactions to a society of strangers where I am an individual entity ricocheting through a formless galaxy.   

Another thing that is weird about being back in the US is that I can hold my girlfriend's hand in public.  West Africans arent very big on public displays of affection.  Which I can definitely empathize with.  Last week D and I were going to Kroger's and I grabbed her hand.  Then we both realized we were holding hands for an extended period of time in public.  For probably the first time ever.  It was weird, but in a good way. 

There are more huge, abandoned buildings in Detroit than there are huge, occupied buildings in Lome I think.

Yes, ok, fine universe, a smart phone would make my life, in this hyper-connected yet totally atomized social reality that is the US, much easier.  Especially when one is trying to meet up with one's friend and one does not have a phone, despite that fact that this planned rendezvous was set up entirely on Facebook without an exchange of actual phone numbers that would have made it possible for one's girlfriend to use her flip, non-smart, phone to call the friend in the event of a car breakdown, which actually happened. 

On the other hand, D's parents' car is now like a Togolese vehicle, whether there is a key in the ignition is totally superfluous to the car's function.

Habits that I developed in Togo that I still do here: I still wash my feet before bed.  Religiously.  I do the two handed wave even though this causes many peoples' eyes to cross.  I do not pass things or give things to people with my left hand.  Doing so makes me internally cringe.

This might just be me, but why the hell is there a professional football team in the US called the "Redskins"?  Seriously?  What is this, the 1870s or some shitty John Wayne movie?  Use that term in any other setting and you would (rightly) be called a racist idiot, but because it is the name of an NFL team it is somehow ok?

Automatic lawn watering systems are evil.  Non-automatic ones are only slightly less evil.  Dumping potable water on the ground, which is all watering your yard does, is obscene.

On the other hand, watching live, if only pre-season, football for the first time in 3 years was amazing.

No comments:

Post a Comment