Meet, Cheese and Olives

Priyanka Rao - Ecuador

September 29, 2011

Me and my sister Naomi

My first family outing was to a baby shower–it was a solid evening.  By the time it was time to go, I decided my Indian outfit would pass for something unique at least, to avoid the other judgments. It was a nice town-house out in the mountainside with lots of nice people to kiss on the cheek.  I sat down on the decked couch with my sister Naomi beside me, chatting away… or texting.  This scares me because she is my sole anchor to the world and without her it’s gone.  I was buried in the dose of cultural cleavage and all I could do was digest the endless supply of cute little appetizers; meat, cheese and olives, to dip in some sort of zesty mustard sauce.  I was the shy curious one.  The blond girl.  Smile.  I struggle with the need of something to say and the guilt of not having more to add to the cultural interaction- of me and a “Beby Show-er.”  The words flow over in Spanish and I pick up too much to remember how to say hello.  In silence my mind convulses over what to say versus observing and questioning.  Young, modern, almost bored girls, and the macho guy that cradles the baby; more hellos and the streamers float among the pale blue balloons. “It’s a boy!”

I am tense and taller than most of the people there and I still don’t know what to say.  I don’t even answer direct preguntas, but turn to Naomi to understand.  All the while I’m thinking “How estrange.”  How strange.  This thought clouds over.  Finally I stop trying.  Driving home in the car, lost in the ebb and flow of the conversation, I finally pick out a phrase I do know: “Ella es tranquila, no?  Toda tranquila.”  She’s chill isn’t she? Completely chill.  In the world of culture shock, I’ve just reached nirvana.

Priyanka Rao