When we first moved to Cork, even a trip to the grocery store was new and exciting – exploring the aisles and seeing the different foods available here. Learning that shopping carts are referred to as trolleys.
The sweet old-fashioned feeling of the colourful and vibrant village where we moved… even the fact that we moved to a village! Who lives in a village!?
The trepidation of driving on the other side of the road.
The blank stares and amazement that somebody can be speaking English – my native language – yet I can’t understand a word of what they are trying to say. To be fair that happened more intermittently than regularly, but even now, 2 ½ years later, I still have to ask people to repeat themselves or explain some Irish term.
Finding directions to a new place, in a country that doesn’t believe in street signs.
And yet day by day the new becomes familiar. Trips to the grocery stores become routine. The jaw-dropping landscapes somehow fade into the unseen familiar. The quaint village… is simply home. A destination which once caused me to leave half an hour early to allow for getting lost, I now drive as naturally as I breathe. The newness fades and what once was foreign and exciting becomes the daily norm.
Until it isn’t.
Yesterday I went into the city centre. A place that has become all too familiar to me. A man was painting a scene on the sidewalk depicting the final moments on the titanic. I stopped to admire his work and was struck with the realisation that this is an amazing place. The bustle of the city centre, the rows of shops and quaint little side streets. In Canada and America, we go to shopping malls – there aren’t city centres as there are here. And yet yesterday I caught a glimpse of Cork, now my home, through fresh eyes – eyes of a visitor.
Even stranger is to return home, to your hometown, and feel like a foreigner. Last summer I went to Canada. My mom was sick so I went to the store to look for ginger-ale. I walked up and down that store countless times, reading the signs over each aisle looking for “Soda” or “Fizzy Drinks” or “Drinks”… and then I saw it “Pop”…. How could I have forgotten that I grew up referring to ‘soda’ as ‘pop’?!
Or the time I drove on the wrong side of the road… in Canada! Driving on the left had become second nature, and there were a couple of times where I naturally turned or found myself on the left side of the road. Thankfully they were quiet streets and parking lots!
“Normals” blur. I struggle to remember if Americans spell ‘centre’ or ‘center’, for example. Sometimes I will use an expression or word and somebody will say “Is that Canadian?” (Or Irish… or American)… and I honestly have no idea where I have picked it up. It has just become part of me.
That is the amazing thing about travelling, and getting to know people from different cultures. You are subtly introduced to new thoughts and view points, new perspectives. You never really lose your own, but little by little, you change. Pieces from each culture and person integrate themselves into your DNA and your views, desires and thoughts expand and evolve.