Living in a different culture can be very interesting. I learn about myself just as much as others. For instance, why are pancakes okay for breakfast but cake isn’t? Really, there’s not a lot of nutritional difference.
I now dwell in a land steeped in traditions, some of which are millennia old. This means abiding by rules that I don’t always know or understand. This can prove quite mind boggling as I work to determine what I can and can’t wear or what food items go together. Thankfully, the mandate of hospitality means others should share their wealth of information and knowledge with me so as to preserve my life and reputation. No one wants a dead or injured American on their hands. And everyone loves to be a hero. This is actually one of the things I love about the Middle East: everyone is quick to help others. They all want to share their favorite recipes or their way of doing whatever it is you need to do. It’s beautiful. It’s community.
And so, their help is usually welcomed. I am particularly grateful for a friend pulling me aside and showing me a better way to walk down the street so as to attract less attention. And for another friend who taught me how to host properly.
Occasionally, though, this advice is ill-founded. Awhile back my friend kept trying to save me from certain suffocation by moving all my plants to the balcony. In this way, she was preventing “reverse photosynthesis” from removing all my oxygen. No amount of scientific evidence would sway her belief. And just last week, while at a coastal city, I ordered shrimp with banana-milk. The waiter was very reticent to place my order as shrimp and milk don’t mix. I thanked him for his concern and assured him I’d be fine. And I was.
Life overseas is an interesting adventure of paradoxes and juxtapositions. As I wade through the muddy waters of culture and tradition, I am faced with my own culture’s faults and fallacies. I’ve learned to blend my own culture with my host culture, creating an entirely new me in the process.
And I’ve learned that at times, it’s okay to let others be your hero. Even if you didn’t think you needed saving. You never know what you might discover.