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My own version of an idiot abroad



Do you remember the first time you traveled to a foreign land? With a foreign language? Have you experienced feeling frustrated, lost or stupid and everything you learned in school, books or from other media seemed useless because you couldnt use them in the situation you were in? I do and it felt like standing in a quagmire!

Anyway, I was watching The Idiot Abroad and having lived known and lived western and eastern culture, I found myself not knowing how to react, whether to find it funny, sympathetic or what. But nevertheless, here are a few stories about my first time episodes.

The Yogurt lesson

When I arrived in Bangkok in 2001, I had, for the first time, tasted the amazing yogurt. I could still remember how lovely it tasted and out of curiosity I checked the expiration date. It said something like 26-01-44, which my mind translated into whats previously been known. I gasped at the length of the expiry, 44 years! Remember it was only 2001. I was amazed! Having been previously ignorant about food and health issues, I thought it was really great for a food to last for 44 years. Nevertheless, I found out later that Buddhist calendar was more than 500 years more advanced to the Gregorian calendar, 543 to be precise. So for those who didnt know, in Thailand it is now the year 2557.

Cultural ignorance

Still in Bangkok, I was descending a footbridge with my friend in one of the busiest areas in the capital. I saw a monk on his way up who stopped midway.  I hurried to get passed not wanting to disrupt  the traffic flow. My friend was behind me and when she caught up with me she told me that I should have given way for the monk because theyre the most highly regarded in the society and all respect was due them. Ops!

The curse of modernity

The first time I went to Sicily I was amazed at their ancient buildings, ancient culture and tradition, not to mention their ancient history. But this tale is not about their ancient stuff. My brother-in-law and his family took me to Ragusa and Noto to visit these two baroque capitals and to watch Tinturias concert. It was about 3-4 hour drive from Niscemi. On the way, we stopped to eat at an American fast food. (You know it very well but because I dont want to eat there anymore for health-related issues, I refused to name it.) Nevertheless, while still in the building, I also made sure to use the toilet. I saw a woman washing her hands in the sink but I didnt see how she opened the tap. I thought it had a sensor like those in the modern toilets. I moved my hands up and down and around the tap but no water was coming out. I checked the floor if there was something to step on just like those good ol water fountain but there wasnt. I was getting frustrated and annoyed. My bro-in-laws wife saw me and when  I asked her how to get the water running she also didnt seem to know. Then she pointed to a small steel sticking midway from the under the sink. Using her leg, she pushed it to one side (I dont remember whether it was left of right) and the water came out. I didnt know whether to laugh or to be annoyed at my display of stupidity. I chose the former.

Underestimating the English Weather

This is probably the most idiotic thing Ive ever done abroad to date. When I first arrived in England on March 21, 2008 it was 5 Degrees Celsius.  I had no idea how cold that felt since I had been living all my life in the tropics. When I came out of the airport everyone was wearing boots, scarf, hats and thick winter jackets. I was wearing a  thin pink bubble jacket and sandals. My upper and lower teeth were hitting each other non-stop. My jaws were almost locked. I wanted to run back to the airplane and say, Take me back home! As if that was not enough, when I arrived in Norwich it was snowing and I had to stand in the cold for about 10 minutes waiting for my lift! The biting cold was unbearable.  I will never forget that day.

I didnt think that the end of March would still be snowing in England. I thought it was already spring. But I have learned my lesson. Never underestimate English weather. Better yet, never trust English weather!

Image Credit: Illustration by Gabriella Sentina of Gagaspainting.com
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