. . . of feeling stupid.
There is a woman in my hometown of Frederick Maryland who is a medical doctor from Russia. She moved to the USA recently and thought, although she had limited English, that her medical skills and education would be valuable in the job market. She knew she couldn't be a physician, but surely she could get some job in the healthcare industry.
She sells shoes at Payless.
Customers tell her that they can't understand her and that she can't possible be competent enough to help them find a pair of shoes. They ask to speak to the manager. This Russian doctor is not qualified to sell shoes?
I have a doctorate. I am an English professor.
I coinsider myself to be pretty smart. I can be witty, and charming, and have interesting things to say.
But not here in Buenos Aires. Here, like the Russian physician, I am incompetent. Take today, for instance.
We gave our notice to the woman, Ana, from whom we rent because our stay here is nearing an end. This morning, the Internet stopped working.
Any URL I entered I got this (see above) screen. Now you tell me. What would you think if you received this message? (Go ahead, click on it, and see it in detail.)
OK, so I spent the entire day on this—going to Internet cafes, on the phone, trying different work around—and it turns out that this is just a promotion, a commercial, an attempt to get me back as a customer. All I have to do is click on the little box that says (to me, anyway) “No thanks, cancel my account,” and I am restored to full access. Once I bothered Ana all day with this, and only after she made several calls to Fibertel and then patiently explained it to me, did I finally figure it out.
Ah dios mio, this is frustrating. I felt so stupid.
It (Argentina) is very humbling. At home, I am totally in the moment. No nuance, no detail, no aspect excapes me. Here, it is like I am mentally retarded. Conversations go on, and I nod, and smile, and hear the words. I even understand most of it. But I am not in it. I am on the side. I am peripheral. I am not integral.
It must be very difficult for people who come to a new country without the language, without money, and without support to survive. No wonder they cluster together in communities and hesitate to integrate. No wonder they keep to themselves. No wonder they seek anything familiar.
I know I have learned something very important today. It is, however, going to take me some time to figure out exactly what that is. I'll have to ask the Russian doctor what she learned.