June 27, 2013

What Living Abroad Has Taught Me (Ayelet's Perspective)

As you all know, we've lived abroad for four years now. We've each learned our own lessons about living in new places. Greg will write his own perspective later, but for now, here's what I've learned in our last four years.

Talking to Strangers
Asking questions of people you don't know is not something I generally had to do a whole lot of in the US. What I've learned is that people love getting asked for directions, recommendations, etc. You just need to meet them halfway there - know the actual name of the place you're trying to get to or give them something to go on if you're asking for a recommendation (e.g., don't just ask for a restaurant for example - ask for a vegetarian-friendly restaurant). The more sheepish or helpless you can look, the better!

The ones who don't like your questions aren't worth talking to anyway. 

Being Resourcefulness
One area where I have had to be incredibly resourceful is the food department. We can't find all the ingredients of dishes and desserts I've wanted to make here. I'm always on the lookout for recipes I can make or that I can find simple substitutes for. This type of resourcefulness extends to making things that I could buy, but don't want to get rid of when we leave. 

For example, instead of buying a bunch of frames or bulletin board to put photos up in my studio, I created a makeshift picture holder with wire hangers and clothes pins, and I figured out a way to put it upwithout having to drill into the concrete wall either. It's awesome and I love to look up from my designs to see my family, friends, and inspiring pictures looking down on me.

Living Simply
Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, we are going to come back with three suitcases, two carry-ons, a backpack, and a cat pack. That's not a lot of space, which is good in a way. It means that anytime I think about buying something, I think to myself "Will this be one of the few things that makes it back with us?" If I know it won't, I don't buy it.

That means that what I do buy here are things that I truly love and want to have in a future home. I hope I can extend this mindset when we have a home to settle into.

Doing Without a Car
If you told me five years ago that we would go this long without a car, I probably wouldn't have believed you. Europe was extremely easy to get around without a car and in Quito, it's easier to travel around without a car than with one. It would be nice to have a car here for weekend trips, but we've found car rental services for those rare getaways. 

It may be harder to get groceries to our home and sometimes that means the trip will take longer. But benefits to my health has been huge. Before I left the US, my doc told me that I had high triglyceride levels (aka bad cholesterol; it runs in the family). But since we've been without a car, it hasn't been a problem. I also feel stronger, more able to stand for long periods of time, and more willing to be active in other ways because we don't have a car to rely on. I feel more connected to my community and the neighborhood we live in because of it, too. 

We hope to go without a car in the US so we're not tempted to rely on it - Fort Collins looks like a great place to bike and use mass transit. 

Learning the Language
I can't even begin to express exactly how much easier and better the overseas experience is when you know the language. I hear a lot of frustrations and bitterness among the teachers and other friends here who don't know Spanish. And I'm so thankful that my Spanish is good enough that I understand what people are saying. I still have grips about things that relate more to society, but that also has been a great experience.

It's easy to think that things could be better if only they did it like they do in the US or if only they did this instead of that. But another country isn't the US and never will be. And that's the whole reason why we came overseas - to see a different culture and try our darnedest to understand why things are the way they are here. It would take years to really, truly understand the culture and society.

I'm sure there is much, much more that living abroad has taught me - it may only come out when we return to the US in a week and a half. Stay tuned!

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