As I prepare myself for my trip to Chicago next month, I realize once more what a big scary country the US still is to me. I cannot, for the love of God, figure out why.
The main thing that scares me when I travel in general is the language.
I always have this image of myself, stranded in the middle of a busy plaza, with nobody being able to understand me, and I have to find my way, to no avail. If it were a cartoon, you’d probably see a little scared Asian girl with a huge carrier screaming ‘Noooooo!’ in the middle of it, with people hurriedly passing her by. This is why I’ve somewhat been cautious about making trips to Germany (although, yes, I know, most Germans speak English, and I eventually did visit Kohln and Dusseldorf) and despite all the nice things people say about Eastern Europe, that’s a region of my beloved Europe I’m not ready to venture just yet.
So, really, the US should not be a scary place… yet, it still is.
I’m just terrified of getting off at the O’Hare Airport in Chicago and making my way all the way south to the University of Chicago. I have to take the CTA train, get off AND oh dear lord, transfer to a bus, AND walk 7 blocks more. Oh my god, how am I supposed to do this? This fear is really totally unfounded, yet when I went to the US for the first time in the winter of 2010, I had my sister do EVERYTHING for me. From ordering my meals to answering random questions from strangers.
Yet, I have been the ‘interpreter’ of the family ever since middle school and high school during our family trips. I cannot imagine how I pulled it off, thinking back now, but I would accompany my parents to banks and hospitals and travel agencies (yes, those still had a function back then)… in Spain. Granted, I hated it, but nevertheless, I performed my duty as the docile eldest daughter while furiously glaring at my sister, who, in my opinion, was just as good (or bad?) in Spanish as I was. And the same went when we traveled to countries where English was fluently spoken by the general population, such as the Netherlands or Austria… We can safely assume that there is nothing physically wrong with my linguistic skills then.
Language set aside, I also went to Spain and France on my own, when I was (much) younger while still being in undergrad, and took trips to other parts of Europe while I was there. You could have dropped me anywhere on the map, within the confines of Western Europe, and I would have managed just fine. I still can. I got lost in the woods somewhere in Inverness, walked I don’t know how many miles from a train station to the hotel in London just to save a few pounds (which, really, isn’t worth it), and got mistaken for an Asian hooker in the middle of the street in Paris (I swear I was not dressed inappropriately), but I still love Europe and can easily feel at home there.
But with, what I think, decent English skills and a few more years (and experience, and hopefully wisdom?) gained, the US is still a daunting destination. Why? I really can’t say.
Hopefully this will change soon. At this point, it kinda has to…