Every morning, if it’s the first time you’ve seen each other, you shake hands. This is one thing I wish existed in the states. Instead of skirting around the terrible quandary of ‘have we seen each other?’ ‘did we just make eye contact or are you probably looking at the non-existent person behind me?’ – – you just walk up to them, say hello, good morning, I am fine, I’m glad you are too, and then continue with your morning in peace. It’s as simple as acknowledging the impact we have on one another. A few hours later at tea time, when some teachers have still not crossed paths that day, the mood is looser and the response to inquiries of wellbeing becomes a playful “I am not fine.” This was always a pleasure to see as it was probably the closest thing to sarcasm I ever witnessed. Something I missed.
However now that I’ve returned, I miss the humor of the dramatic, prolonged, and hyperbolized reenactments. They were performed in such a way where the actor seemed to not even realize how funny he was being. Yet his eyes would widen, his voice would be marvelously deep and well projected, and he would pause at key moments to wait for the desired reaction. It’s really a delightful thing that often came from unexpected people. Sometimes a person who had yet to contribute a word to the surrounding conversation would suddenly erupt in a hilarious and thoroughly illustrated explanation of something they found absurd, and then promptly retreat to their previous non-intrusive presence.
The people who I got to know taught me in a very sincere way that talking about yourself isn’t always – or even usually – conceited or foolish. Instead talking about some experience you’ve had shows that you respect the other person enough and think highly enough of your relationship to expect that they care about you! One of the most relaxing things for me was when somebody I had met only a couple times before started talking to me about their travel plans for the next week, their child, or they’re time in school, as if we were longtime friends. This is highly contradictory to many conversations I’ve had in the states, where there is more likely to be an underlying competition to see who can inquire the most things about the other person. Very tiringly, it’s as if the more you talk about the other person the more polite you are. But if you’re not trusting that they respect you enough to hear about you, are you really being other-minded?