Fish Out of Water

Watching Jennifer adjust to life in America has given me a front row seat to a living experiment in sociology. She is in the full throes of culture shock. I find myself ever vigilant to see the world through her eyes, silently wondering what will next trigger her fascination. The gas-station car wash, the zoo, cold weather, eating Mexican food for the first time: this place is very much a theater to her and she dances on the stage of change; I enjoy watching the show.

The change in culture has been as equally rough for her as it has been fascinating . Living in the United States is very different from living in the Philippines. Family and friends are over 8000 miles away and the closest substitute I can give her is the Filipino Channel Network. The food is strangely foreign to her and that is only offset with a constant influx of rice from the local Tom Thumb store. Sometimes the onslaught of English gets to her (after a year of Ilonggo I can empathize). Adding to the differences, a bit of isolation fever sets in from time to time when things become overwhelming to her senses.

For all of the change she has faced, I likewise face some newness. A closet full of female clothing, a now cramped bathroom, and the ever present reminder that I must head straight home after work are all things I haven’t experienced in a long time. These are by no means bad things but change is change [insert ‘Who moved my cheese?’ quote]. Despite all the upsets, I can easily state that all the change is worth it.

Her simplicity and lack of experience on all things American has given me a renewed vigor for life. It is somewhat impossible for me to explain being a part of her first-time experiences: first time eating grapes, first time watching a 3-D movie, and first-time experiencing fall weather (just to name a very few first-times). It reminds me of that memorable line from the ‘City of Angels’:

Maggie: Well, it tastes like a pear. You don’t know what a pear tastes like?
Seth: I don’t know what a pear tastes like to you.

I know that the culture shock will one day go away. She will no more be surprised from me having her “taste” the Ora-jel or sending her outside [48 degrees F. & sub-zero to a Filipino] to check the weather. The gas station car-wash will never be as awesome as that first time and I imagine on that day, King Kong will no longer be a scary movie to her. All of the good, the bad and the ugly of this country will phase into a shade of gray that roughly means things have become a bit more normal in lieu of her island upbringing and that the disparity of American/Filipino culture has softened. Fortunately for me, that day is not today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *