Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guards! Impostor!

Some days I catch myself feeling uptight, just waiting for someone to call me out. Some days I feel like I've been far too lucky - that I'm not living my assigned life, but rather squatting in someone else's overly-blessed existence. I find myself on edge, just waiting for whichever deities happen to be lurking nearby to find me out and smote me back to my rightful existence. I look at this apartment and think "I'm not supposed to be living someplace this nice!" I mean really - I look out the window and think, "Shouldn't I be in some dingy apartment in Leesburg or in Atlanta... how did I end up in Switzerland?!?"

I wonder if this is how people feel when they win the lottery or inherit a pile of cash they never knew existed - thrilled and apprehensive. I absolutely adore my life here, and consequently, I spend more than a couple minutes a day waiting for the other shoe to drop. I bring this up because earlier today I saw a sign posted in the elevator. Nothing exciting - as far as my remedial French goes, I think it said we would have no hot water for a couple hours overnight for some reason, but before I managed to decipher it, the insane side of my brain (yes, that is the biggest part, thanks for noticing) started thinking, "Oh god - what did we do wrong? Are we getting kicked out?" On any given day when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, I catch myself thinking, "This is finally it - we're out." The stupidity of all that is there is NO reason for these thoughts other than my brain auditioning for "The World's Ultimate Pessimist".

My current theory is all this paranoia is just one of 31 plus available flavors of "fear of the unknown." When I lived in Atlanta and worked in the restaurant, I never really got used to hearing the kitchen guys start chattering away in Spanish. They all seemed to be nice guys, but there was just something about the language switch that always unnerved me - especially when it happened as I entered or exited their vicinity. I think I'm fairly safe in saying most of us know this paranoia: if you walk by and conversations switch to a foreign language, they must be talking about you. Well, try that one out while living in or visiting a "foreign" country... my ears hear the French and the Swiss German and my head immediately goes, "What did I do? Is there toilet paper on my shoe? Did I tuck my skirt into my waistband again? Did I step in dog doo?" I have to remind myself they aren't the ones speaking a "foreign" language - I am. When Mr K and I chat away in line at stores, I wonder if we give other people those "are they talking about me" heebie-jeebies or if this paranoia is somehow uniquely American.

Despite all this nonsense in my head, it's a gorgeous day outside today and I'm looking forward to jiu-jitsu tonight... just don't ask me about the torturous French class of yesterday... I'm still trying to "oublie." Meanwhile, check out and vote in my snazzy new poll, located in the right-hand column, right at the top!


Jürg said...

don't worry. since a lot of people talk english in switzerland it's not that much of a 'secret' language.
and besides that you don't switch the language, do you? That's what makes people wary. :)

And be aware where you talk in a different language. We even get 'caught' in Virginia (even in the ocean!) talking Swissgerman. :)

Jürg said...

btw: nice you talking french classes. i should join you. my french knowledge is equal zero. :(

j'ai oublie tout. :-/

Miz K said...

You got caught speaking Swiss German in Virginia? That's pretty funny - what happened? French class is very hard but we're getting there - I guess. ;-) It doesn't feel like I'm making much progress most days, though. Ah well!

Piet Barber said...

I used to have the paranoid delusion that the Swiss Germans were talking about the huge bogey hanging off my nose that I hadn't noticed. I have now learned Bärndütsch well enough to now know that they are simply zämeschwatze -- just chatting about husbands, boyfriends, stuff like that.

I even intercepted an entire phone conversation of this girl on the train on the way home yesterday. I felt so proud of myself that I had successfully deciphered every word of her side of the phone conversation.

"Hi. I'm not so good. I think I am a little sick. I am going home early today. I do not know if I will be at work tomorrow"

I was so proud of myself, but took a step back for who knows what kind of ailment I could contract standing next to her.

Carl E said...

Funny, I actually "caught" two people in my office the other day! As an American interning in Brussels, they (the 7 other people in the office) think my French is extremely limited. Since I don't speak it to them, they felt "safe" speaking it, even when I was in the room!! It was nice to know my French had progressed enough under their radar to know what they had said about me. Nothing really bad, more questions than anything...but I wish I knew something REALLY smart "en Français" that would have blown their socks off and made them blush for speaking like that in front of me. Well, technically my back was turned but that's beside the point! :-) Ah...c'est la vie! Maybe on my last day I'll burst their bubble and memorize some speach in French and spout it out...making them think "How much did he understand when we spoke French in the office?" ;-)

Miz K said...

I knew it! I knew it!

And that is an amazing plan - you should get started on the speech now - that would be so funny!

Jen said...

Loved this post, and I can relate to the language discomfort...though I don't worry as much about whether people are talking about me, but more whether they're talking TO me, and me not understanding them! I can read simple text reasonably well, and I can even speak in a semi-acceptable manner, but when someone says something to me out of the blue, I get the worst case of deer-in-the-headlights you've ever seen! I sure hope I can get over that soon! :-)

Miz K said...

jen, i know exactly what you mean! this little old woman asked me to reach a bag of peas for her in the grocery and it took me three tries to figure it out - she just kept repeating herself while i grinned nervously. lol!

Jürg said...

[...]You got caught speaking Swiss German in Virginia? That's pretty funny - what happened?[...]

well, we were boogieboarding at virgina beach and we were just fooling around (can't remember what we were talking about, but certainly nothing special) when out of a sudden - we didn't even see her coming - a girl came up to us and said (on swissgerman) "hey, are you guys from switzerland?"
we were just like WTF??! :)

another funny story about "language-terror" is when i was in ireland, i stayed at a b&b and in the morning on the breakfast table there were 4 mid-30's ladies behind me on the table which were speaking french. and as i said, my french was pretty bad so i couldn't understand what they were talking about. but when i was finished i stood up and said: "au revoir." to them and suddenly they were quiet and they had this "oho-face". :) that was sooo funny. :)
they probably were talking about me, but who cares? that was to funny. :)

Miz K said...

that's too funny! i bet those ladies talked about you for the rest of the day!