I am getting a lesson that my great grandparents received when they arrived in America from part of the world we still can’t figure out the origins. I was going to write a witty and funny repartee that was part of the comedic genius of Harold Ramis and the movie stripes, where he taught immigrants English, yet, I have 15 minutes til class starts and unlike traveling with a show where I had a few hundred family members to chat with no matter the language. I am alone in a room with a few Africans, Asian’s, and a woman from the Middle East whose eyes say the same story. I am sure we are happy to be learning something new, but at our ages, it is not considered normal to be starting over this late in life.
The feelings are part one of being taught humility.
There was one great advantage traveling the planet with the live entertainment shows, in that much like English is the universal airline language – it also was the language widely spoken in the world. This allowed me the ability to travel and work all over the world, but not be forced into fully learning another language beyond “I would like a coffee” and the ability to point at food in a display window and communicate via universal hand signals. While it led to seeing the world, it did not allow me a traditional ex-pat experience where one tends to go for a few years in one spot. I was lucky if I spent a week in one spot during a year.
In hindsight of all the travel, I always told my niece and nephew to learn 2-3 languages with the way the world’s globalization is changing. The United States is not what it used to be and is quickly changing into a world of a few super wealthy and more and more just struggling to get by. The American dream is now winning the mega millions super lottery for most.
What I find more interesting is that as amazing as the country of Switzerland is, "home" still feels like is on top of that mountain where i want to build the research lab/home in Colorado Springs, USA. The lessons I am learning swiss. reminded of how the United States was when I was a kid. People are polite, rules are rules, and if someone says they will be somewhere at a certain time, they are. If they say “I can do this” it means they really can.
The am also surprised how the swiss version of democracy works. If someone wants to change something, they really can. Inside the United States, you need power, money and connections for change. The popular vote, unfortunately, really means little.
Instead of making a humorous joke about me starting all over again, I can’t. I wish I could take a picture of the woman sitting across form me. She is scared, I try to smile to cheer her up, but like me, it is probably a small sense of what my great grandparents felt when they came into a port in the United States. My relatives said, they each had one little suitcase, which contained all of their possessions.
I am excited, despite trying Rosetta stone, to be able to talk and communicate, it really sucked for helping me learn german grammar and the formal and informal nuances of the language. Thus, I will try this classroom setting where I at least will have others to talk to that are what I hope is as clueless as I am in the journey to learn
The rest of the class fills in, it reminds me of a mini-united nations from countries where It probably will take me a little time to learn to memorize reach’s formal name pronunciation and spelling. I am the only white guy in the room, and it was funny when they asked where was I from and I mentioned, “the united states” they gave me the oddest looks, like one of disbelief, “why are you here?” all i could think of was a moment years ago in the back of a taxi cab in columbia where a sincere cab driver asked, "sir, is it true that all the streets in america are paved with gold?"
I feel like a little child on my first day of school where it took the bus 12 hours to arrive for me to get to class. Thankfully there is a coffee vending machine that must be mistaken in brewing a coffee for only one franc out in the hallway. I think back to the other students looks who appear to have arrived here not by choice, but to escape political unrest elsewhere. I am here because I have to wait for my wife’s immigration forms for the USA to go through the processes whereas I was shocked at how fast it worked for me on the Swiss side. I applied, a few days later, “here you go.”
People always ask me how do you retain creativity. I keep saying the same thing, “you have to get disciplined to practice every day, and you have to change the exercise every day and stress into a place of discomfort. That will allow you to change and grow. You have to do this everyday, or you will eventually stagnate and go backwards.”
But dang, change sure can get uncomfortable. The feeling of doubt, fear, and looking at the unknown always feels the same. Thankfully, when you get to the point to look at the big shadow being projected on the wall and look at the little image in front of the light, you realize there is nothing to fear, even german grammar.