Thursday, November 17, 2011

2 1/2 Months Later

I think what will ultimately push me out of this country is the culture's obsession with cleanliness. I know some of you are laughing while reading this because you know me well enough to really imagine me struggling with this. For those of you who may not know me as well, you should know that it is not in my nature to be clean. I have honed disorganization to an art form, nay, a philosophy even. Some (Germans) may think I have just developed bad habits, which may be partially true. But I really don't think I have enough room in my brain and in my heart to care about the state of my room. With so much to see in the world, so many people to meet, so many unknown and unexpected things to do, how could anyone have the time or patience to put away one's clothes properly? They're on the floor, they're not complaining and I obviously don't care. I know where they are, I can pick things out easily. I was approached by Inga, the mother of the family I work for, recently and she informed me that the woman who comes to clean the house three times a week has adamantly refused to clean my bathroom because of its unacceptable state of neglect. First of all, I would prefer she doesn't go in my bathroom at all, let alone take the time to clean it. Secondly, if my Mom went into my bathroom and saw its state as it is, knowing that I have been the only one taking care of it, she would cry. Weep. With pride. Because this bathroom looks pretty darn good in my opinion. I guess there are a couple hairs in the sink and I left my razor and soap in the shower. A couple of weeks ago this annoying interaction with what I consider this culture's unhealthy perspective on organization would probably have sent me to my room seething with contempt for these strange people and researching the cheapest airline tickets to Boston to kick-start my fantasy of catching the earliest flight back to America. But now I find it laughable. I no longer take these things personally because I'm no longer ashamed of them. I just have to think of Rita (the cleaner) being introduced to my friends at 27 Gordon Street in Allston while they were still living there. I love Rita, she is a good woman who does a great job, but I think I love the expression I imagine she would have on her face at being confronted with such mess and chaos even more.

My feelings about... well, everything... have been out of control lately. Moreso than I can ever recall. In one moment I will feel content, happy to let my life run its course naturally and end up where I end up. The next moment I'm filled with anger and loneliness and feel like if I can't be home with my family and friends I will surely cease to exist. But I realized recently, with the help of a novel titled Life of Pi , that where I am is no different to where I have been or anywhere that I may go in the future. True, I'm an ocean away from everyone and everything I love most, there's an hour less sunlight here, and everyone around me speaks a language I don't understand. But the beauty I have seen in America as sunlight filters through God's perfect green of living things, or the loveliness of being approached by a friendly dog and experiencing his perfect innocence, or even looking a stranger in the eyes and smiling at them and hoping that they are having a good day are all things that exist everywhere as long as you love life. And once you realize this happiness, love, beauty, and contentment crash into your mind, heart, and soul like water that has been building up behind a fortified dam and has been waiting to be released for centuries. I have known the whole time that my experience here will depend only on my perspective, but it is one thing to know something and another to truly understand it.

But like I said, the cleanliness thing really gets to me. Its not just about my personality, though I think that that discrepancy will be enough to bring me home happily and with much anticipation, but it relates to the overall mentality of the culture. Another example is the crosswalk. In every city I've been in (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, D.C., Los Angeles, New Orleans, Austin, Paris, etc.) pedestrians feel that as long as there is very clearly no traffic to endanger themselves they will cross the street, regardless of what the little light on the other side of the street says. Not here. If that little red man is standing with his handless arms at his sides and his feetless legs immobile over the crosswalk, you can bet that the German next to you isn't even considering looking to see if there is a car in the vicinity at all. This is what bothers me so much about the mentality here: if there is a rule, you follow it. There's no reason to ask why because rules are what keep everything together and what allows everyone to be content, safe, and happy. Of course it is wonderful that there is little crime and almost no poverty, but it comes at the expense of what I consider to be a sedated culture, one that does not push its people to question and challenge the structure of their reality because they're just so darn comfortable. Though its frustrating for me to think about, I am so glad I am experiencing this. Before I left, I considered America to be a sad, strange, anxious, dark place. I still think of America as all of these things, but after experiencing the opposite, I have to say that I prefer the chaos of the discontented to the torpor of the contented.

Right now, I feel good. My new found perspective is bringing me a lot of self-sufficient and natural happiness, and I no longer feel a desperate need to go home. I'm excited to discover what the next step is, but don't want to rush into it. Time goes by very quickly here, and I'm excited for the day when I realize that soon I will be returning home. But for now, I think I'll be okay just where I am.

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