Traveling While American

When I was in Granada last year as part of my Spain trip, I tried to buy something in a store called Callate La Boca. My friend had bought me a shirt from one of these stores in Madrid the previous year while on her honeymoon and so I was excited when I found the same store in Granada and found that they were selling a matching iPhone cover. I went back the next day to get something else and fumbled over my words to try to explain to the lady what I wanted. “I’m sorry,” she said, at her lack of English. I was a bit horrified as I said, “No, I’m sorry!” Here I was, in her country, not being able to speak her language and she was apologizing to me because she didn’t speak my language!

This part is made is made infinitely more sad when I tell you all that I took five years of Spanish in junior high and high school, getting A’s in all my semesters, except my last semester of AP Spanish 5 when I got a B+ (CURSES!!).


Alhambra poster I got from Callate La Boca

I’m trying to be more conscientious this time around – I’m going on a trip this Friday, InshAllah, to Turkey and Greece. While I know I won’t become conversant in any of the languages, I can at least portray that I understand that I’m in a different country and no one is meant to adhere to my own language and cultural whims and to be appreciative if they are somehow able to understand me with the pointing and the hand gestures. Granted, I’m going to hit up cities where they cater to tourists such as myself but still, I’m hoping it’s worth something to at least acknowledge that I understand that I’m in a country that is not my own surrounded by people that are from another culture.

I thought a lot about I want from this trip. Besides trying to cram in all the usual tourist stuff (which I can’t wait to do!), I also want to think more about the pictures I take, talk to random folks, and of course, drink coffee.

I also would love to blog while I’m abroad, which I hadn’t done at all on my last few trips as I waited to come back to write anything, telling myself that I didn’t want to step back from the moment to write something. I even bought a small keyboard for my Nexus 7 tablet so I could blog on the go without having to drag my laptop around.* I have to admit, I was inspired to write while on the trip by my coworker and friend Tony, who blogged quite regularly while on a recent trip to India. My hope is to to do the same but we’ll see if I actually have something to say :)

I’m definitely lucky and appreciative of the opportunity to travel. It’s quite something to be able to wander around a land one is not from while being able to take a break from one’s own life. Here’s to a safe an awesome trip, InshAllah, and may there be many more in the future!

*Because the keyboard is rather small, a coworker observed that it was meant for someone with “baby hands”. I should probably practice typing on it…

NOTE: I wanted to thank Haroon, tour guide extraordinaire, who had led the Spain trip last year for giving suggestions for Istanbul. Check out his blog post on the topic – What to See and Do in Istanbul. I love how in general, people have been so forthcoming about imparting knowledge from their own trips.

7 thoughts

  1. Have a beautiful and inspiring time in Turkey and Greece (u will be cca 600 km far away from my homeland:))
    And about Spanish, the same is with my French, I took 4 years in school + styding by myself and only because I never use it it s very hard to communicate in French for me. Somehow I always end speaking in English (that is not great as well:)). Now I have a new friend who is French and willing to learn Bosnian, so we have ‘language exchange’ time together, and it s going well, hopefully.

  2. Have an amazing trip! Please blog. The little things will inspire you. Like why was the woman sorry she couldn’t understand. Was it deeper than just an apology or was she truly sorry about the opportunity she may have missed to get to know you. Thanks for the shout out!

  3. Bushra, I hope your journeys as safe and inspiring, and please do blog and take photos while you’re there!

    We have a wireless keyboard which I sometimes use with my husband’s iPad while travelling to work. It works better with some tasks than others, for sure!

  4. Yup, I hope you are thankful…not many get a chance to go to all these wonderful places :) Sounds like you are having a good time right now in Turkey..sorry I’m going backwards lol. AND LOL at the Spanish classes – curses indeed! And oh yeah, GREECE too – SO SO JEALOUS. I do have a med school classmate there, but again, don’t know if I’ll ever make it over..for now, shall live vicariously through others like family and online peeps like yourself. Keep the photos coming!

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