Lately, I have been feeling much more settled. Munchkin is in school. I have some me time. I am meeting people. I have a sence of being part of the community.
Feeling more at home doesn’t mean you aren’t still a stupid foreigner.
Preschool has presented some new challenges. (I like to think of them as learning opportunities.) I am abysmal at the day-to-day knowledge of preschool norms. Culture shock slaps me in the face a lot in this new adventure.
My little monkey is usually happy to go to preschool, but some kids are not. There is one little boy who cries every morning. Two days in a row, we sat beside this little one while taking off the coat and changing into slippers.
The first day, I tried a little distraction. The English language is a curious thing to a Serb tyke! So, I talked to him in English and then translated in Serbian. He was confounded and forgot about crying for a few minutes at least.
Munchkin went to her class happily. From the doorway, I coached her a bit to find a seat (in English.) The gorgeous little tots stared at me with fascination. One little girl was so astonished, she got up from her seat and started walking towards me. I think, maybe she thought closer proximity would solve problem and she would understand?
It is funny how our brains work when it comes to foreign language. Just last week a friend and I went to a little store to get something and the sales lady tried to “help” me understand by yelling in Serbia. Sadly, it didn’t help. 😉 We left the store and shared a good laugh.
Back to the story at hand.
Enter the second day of the little boy crying without stop. There is no distraction possible. As I relieve my munchkin of her coat, gloves, shoes and change her footwear to the appropriate slippers. It is all very Mr. Rogers, minus being at home.
The sobbing boy’s distress became too much. Munchkin began to cry as well. Crap.
Thinking of being helpful and distracting my sorrowful little one, I take her to the loo to wash her hands. She stands at the sink and as I start to help the tall beautiful teacher comes in talking so fast. It startles me, and it takes me a few seconds to understand that I am not supposed to come into the bathroom with outdoor shoes on… Yes, this is a bit like China.
I am taken aback and don’t really know what to say. She is a new teacher and I think she may not know I am a foreigner with limited language skills. In Serbian, I say, “I am an American. I don’t understand. and I didn’t know”. Well beyond overwhelmed by the abrupt admonishment, I leave the bathroom as not to offend anymore. I keep walking down the stairs and out of the building.
My brain is mush with embarrassment, anger, and the puppy dog hanging its head with shame feeling. The anger is with myself for not knowing, and with the scolding.
Of course, I give it more thought than I should that day.
The next morning the hall is empty as I ready my girl for school, the teacher rounds the corner and makes a bee line for me. She immediately in English says she is sorry. I interrupt with my own rambling apology. All is made right.
Poor Munchkin will probably suffer through this a million more times…
And then I will write about it!
I’m so glad the teacher had the feelings and the good sense to apologize. It has to be tough —
Hang in there!
I am an expat in the opposite direction: from Serbia to USA, and I know it can be a pain to get used to differences in everyday relations. And those differences are usually about small things you would never even think about…I remember my daughter’s school questioning me about her not having a chickenpox shot on her vaccinations sheet – and when I said that she already had chickenpox when she was 4 they made me sign a document about it and sort of threatened between the lines that if she develops chickenpox I will be in serious trouble. I thought that was bizarre. So, hang in there and enjoy your ‘lady from America’ status 🙂 You’ll see, soon you will be getting a ‘preferential’ treatment – in a warm, friendly way. The Serbs like to show off like that – but hopefully you already know that 🙂
Thanks Summer. I have gotten treated very well. I think it is the sweet nature of the people! They are wonderful!. I hope you aren’t having such a hard time over there. Foreigners are often not well received. Tcan imagine the looks you got about the immunization. They are Nazis about that stuff!