Living abroad for the past 8 years has confused me.
Sometimes I spell ‘traveler’ with one ‘l’. Sometimes I spell it with two.
Same goes for those weird, extraneous ‘u’s in words like colo(u)r and neighbo(u)r.
Recognize might come out as recognise, or theater becomes theatre.
When I talk about herbs, I pronounce the ‘H,’ even when it’s not someone’s name.
I refuse to say ‘a-loo-min-ee-um,’ and will not spell it with two ‘I’s. For that matter, I cannot adopt the past tense of ‘spell’ and ‘learn’ as ‘spelt’ or ‘learnt.’
I check the daily news using a Sydney Morning Herald app, even though I don’t live in Sydney and never have.
Relevant holidays used to be Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July. Now I occasionally celebrate Boxing Day, Guy Fawkes’ Day, Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Waitangi Day, Lunar New Year, and Chuseok.
I watched the ticker tape parade in London when the English won the 2003 Rugby World Cup. I cheered from Eden Park, New Zealand in 2006 when the All Blacks fought the Irish.
I was back in England for the 2007 World Cup. I supported the English as they upset the Australians, and commiserated when they lost in the final to South Africa. But in 2008, influenced by a staunch Australian rugby supporter, I abused the English team for winning the 2003 World Cup on field goals alone, and switched allegiance to the Australians.
I believe my picture can be found in the dictionary under the term ‘fair weather fan.’
When I first tried to learn Korean, French words used to come out because that was the only foreign language I knew. Now when I try to remember French words, I say Korean words instead.
I am still fluent in neither language.
Measurements are a jumble of miles, kilometers, pounds, kilograms, grams, ounces, pints, middys, gallons, and liters. (Or is that litres?) Please don’t ask me what the temperature is. I’ll give it to you in Celsius one day and Fahrenheit the next, but I won’t be able to do a direct conversion between the two.
I think of Korean time as ‘real time’ and Eastern Standard Time as ‘behind.’ It frustrates me when people ask “What time is it there?” as if I’m the one living in a time zone that only exists in their imagination.
When it comes to shoes, I’m either a size 8, 10, 41, or 270. For clothes it’s 6, 10, 12, or in Korea, XL. I’m still loyal to American fashion (or stuck in a time warp, you choose), but my musical tastes vary depending on where I live and who I meet.
Do you remember that scene in ‘Runaway Bride’ when Julia Roberts’ character realizes that she has no idea how she likes her eggs?
Well, she changes her preference based on who she’s dating. If he likes fried eggs, she does, too. If he eats an omelet for breakfast, that’s her favorite type of egg.
Sometimes I worry that travel has made me fickle. It’s one thing to adapt to your surroundings, but is it another thing to like scrambled eggs in America, poached eggs in France, tortilla española in Spain and dippy eggs in Australia?
I used to have very defined tastes.
First it was cats:
I was borderline-obsessed with them until I was 13. After that I openly hated country music for a few years. Then I embraced Garth Brooks and moved on to *NSYNC.
Stop judging me.
Then I graduated from college and got hooked on travel. Once that happened, nothing was clearly defined. Life changes at a rapid pace, but when you’re traveling it goes at warp speed. You’re learning new slang, customs, currencies, trying to fit into a way of life that is very unlike your own.
One day, it’s familiar.
One day, you’re not celebrating Thanksgiving anymore. Instead, you’re wondering how you ever got by without a rice cooker. You can answer trivia questions about cricket, of all things, but you miss the significance of a nail-biting IU-UK basketball game. You can name the suburbs of London, but have to rack your brain to remember the names of the surrounding neighborhoods where you grew up.
Then I move and the whole process starts again. The old sort of melts into the new, leaving me with an evaporating puddle of interests and memories. My favorite foods disappear, and I have to find new favorites. I spell words differently again and even change the intonation of my sentences without realizing it. I support whoever the local sports team is, mainly because everybody else is doing it.
If I hadn’t ever traveled, I would always know what the temperature was. I’d take a size 10 shoe, no matter what, and think cricket was a noisy summertime insect. Turkey sandwiches would always be within my reach, and all Asian languages would be equally foreign.
Travel has certainly confused me. I’m overwhelmed with options, often unable to pinpoint the things I like best. But that doesn’t matter. Being able to list my favorites doesn’t mean that I’m getting what I want out of life. I welcome the chaos travel has brought me, even if it occasionally turns me into a headless chicken.
In case you’re wondering, I like my eggs scrambled.
Except for sometimes, when I like them poached.
No, wait. Maybe I’ll just have oatmeal.