Week of Firsts

A week of firsts is how I would definitely sum up my experience thus far after being in a foreign country for the last week. These awkward and uneasy situations have me pondering how often an individual truly puts themselves in a position of discomfort. Yes, I’m talking about deliberately placing oneself in a vulnerable and unknown setting. I know what you’re thinking… you’re asking, “Why would one want to put himself in such a susceptible circumstance, possibly leading to criticism and emotional distress?” Because let’s face it, comfortable puts most at ease. Comfort is less stressful and reassuring, and most of the time provides a feeling of home. Even so, no matter how you look at it, “firsts” or change is a part of everyone’s life. I truly believe it is how we embrace these “firsts” or the change that makes all of the difference.

I can detest that there is definitely an upside to “firsts”. Trying something for the first time allows for a new perspective and appreciation. It has brought a euphoric and intense sense of accomplishment and above all, creates an experience, which turns into a story that you’ll be telling for years to come.

This week of firsts started out with the realization and lesson on how “rendezvous”, often related to sexual encounters by Americans, is more simply just an appointment. Meeting with our banker, opening up a new account, and looking completely confused and a bit embarrassed by the use of the word, created what could have been a very awkward situation and instead led to an amusing and entertaining visit filled with laughter.

The grocery store brings another transition of sorts. Watching others has proven to be the method of choice when determining what to do. Pricing your own fruit at a community scale, prior to checking out, turned into a pleasant run in with an Iowa native. It’s quite astonishing to believe you are in a world so far away, when in reality, only separated by your own presumed ideas and opinions.

Language barriers bring on a whole new set of limits. A pleasant and unexpected run in with a produce lady, who could discern body language very well, resulted in attempts to speak not only French but Spanish to accommodate. This battle of speech caused an informing distinction between words that sound exactly alike in different languages and those that do not. It is this first that ensures I will never forget how garlic is pronounced in Spanish (garlic in Spanish: Ajo or phonetically: ah-HO) and how a stranger can pleasantly go out of their way to find a side dish that accompanies salmon.

An abrupt traffic jam in a parking garage, caused by a computer glitch, proved to be yet another interesting adventure. Sitting in a line, hazards flashing and engines turned off, while following the lead of French man who spoke broken English, brought patience, understanding, and listening to the forefront. These are three competencies which will presumably get plenty of practice in the days to come.

This week of firsts has presented welcoming, yet surprising, connections. Although uncomfortable, fearful, and challenging, each of these experiences conveniently brought at the same time, growth, smiles, and appreciation. So I ask, “When is the last time you did something for the first time?”