Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I am sooooo tired . . .


. . . 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.


emilyeffinconrad said...

it's a good lesson to learn.

Juan said...

In spanish the word is "Empatía".
Beautiful post, bravo.

Chas said...

Dang, dog, that IS confusing! The top part seems to start out with the old, "decision to go, or OPPORTUNITY to stay" ploy, followed by some kind of philisophical musing I couldn't quite translate, except the part about making you a really special final offer. But that blue thing at the bottom... it definitely says, "I prefer not to have internet." But I can't make heads or tails out of that next sentence. What does "dar de bajo" mean?? Give from under? Is that maybe, like, resurrect? Sounds like dealing from the bottom of the deck, if you ask me.

Unknown said...

Empatía y humildad. Qualities we all need to have. Great blog, thanks.

pedroC said...

Chas, "dar de baja" is like "give up", but as you are in the southern hemisphere it's counterpart would become "give down".

Chas said...

Pedro --
So the little blue box says, "I prefer not to have internet. I want to give up the service." And when you click on it, your internet service is restored. No wonder our boy thinks Argentina is Bizzarro World.

PS: Hee-hee... I liked your "give down" joke.