II Flipping Out
If you’re reading this you already know that my 3 companions are Norwegian, men, and extremely well-traveled. Not like Euro-backpacking trip travelled. Like Matias has hitchhiked across the globe every which way (with no money), Jorgen has explored most of the Middle East and Asia, and Knut has taken 2000 km motorcycle trips in Southeast Asia (not to mention he came to Nepal with a bag smaller than many women’s purses) for example, and more.
So ok, I knew they were experts. But I started to freak out when the three of them would only converse in Norwegian for the first two days. For me, traveling to Nepal in and of itself was like being thrown into a whole new universe. As soon as we left the airport I was bombarded by endless dust and dirt coupled with the chaos of motorists, locals, peddlers, and beggars.
But when I couldn’t even understand the dialogue of my companions I felt totally out of control. We were walking around Kathmandu and it was like Matias was giving a fucking tour in Norwegian! You know when you can’t understand someone and you automatically think they’re talking shit about you? I never even thought that because I just felt like they didn’t even bother to acknowledge me. I was stressed and exasperated. I harbored a sense of being both invisible and an outsider with the only ones I could connect. And I piled on that part of it was being a girl.
Sure I mentioned it to them once, but as people are wont to do, they easily slipped back into their native tongue with each other. At that time you could say I had 2 regrets when coming to Nepal: 1) That I wasn’t born Norwegian and 2) That I wasn’t born with a dick. Because I reasoned those two things would have made my trip smoother. I could have handled it differently, and in hindsight it’s very understandable how they were going about. I realize it’s a matter of convenience and has nothing to do with me, but I found it outrageous and finally flipped out on Matias.
Here’s to getting personal. Matias and I never fight. But the evening of our second day I was at my wits end. I was moody, exhausted, mind-tripping, and probably really fucked up with allergies — not to mention extremely stressed from feeling left out. The boys discovered some crazy karaoke bar on the way home and I just wanted to get back home and be alone. Matias insisted on escorting me. Of course things were going to blow up.
As I opened the door to go inside I unleashed a fountain of fury upon him about explaining that I felt excluded and how hanging out with them sucked. Some arguing ensued then and even later, but ultimately we worked it out. I took the dramatic route and told Matias “I love you so much, but I don’t know if we can work this out.” And he replied with “I love you so so much, and I think we can work this out.” I guess calm wisdom saved the day. Because since that evening, communication between the 4 of us has been smooth and inclusive.
Truth be told, we’ve all made our efforts: I in trying to be more understanding and more easy-going, and they with trying to make sure I’m included and that they speak to the group (and not just me, thanks) in English. Actually, it’s all working out beautifully. Lessons learned.
Have you ever experienced being linguistically excluded by a group? How did you handle it? Total melt-down style or did you pull away and dance in your own little lonely world?
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