“You are lost.”
The first time I heard this phrase directed at myself, I was confused. I was walking down the road and had come across a friend whom I had not seen in about a week. I thought “What do you mean? I’m not lost. I’m on the street outside the office.” I am not particularly inclined to directions (my partner can attest to this). It takes awhile for me to get my bearings and feel like I know where I am…and I FINALLY did! I knew where I was, the name of the street I was on, what direction I had come from (South-east) and what direction I was heading in afterwards. For a split second, I was overwhelmed with doubt about my abilities and I thought ‘oh no, maybe I AM lost!’ (I quickly talked myself out of that thought) and then I was just confused. “Pardon”, I asked?
“It has been many days I have not seen you.”
OHHH! Well, that makes more sense. It had been a while. Maybe a week. He meant that I had been figuratively lost to him. At first, I chuckled to myself about how funny that sounded and the barriers that exist between people speaking the same language, but speaking it differently (I have also come across problems with people understanding my ‘o’s – I pronounce them differently than people here and have had a hard time communicating about ‘bottles’ and ‘potties’…which is a problem when working around children). As I thought about it more, the phrase grew on me…you are lost. Was I lost? In a way, yes. Travelling and living abroad is partially an act of being lost. Being lost is an apt description of how I’ve felt for most of the past 2 months – at first I felt like a complete fish out of water. I was lost to my routine back in Canada, my family and friends, my food, my coffee, my ability to speak quickly and unclearly and still be understood (my mother and father would strongly contest this point)…in essence the multitude of things in my surroundings that makes me, well, me. I am lost to most of my old reference points. However, and this is the truly great thing about exploring new spaces, is that slowly slowly (mpola mpola), you learn, grow, and create new reference points. You come with your own background and stories, but you also make new connections between things that seem otherwise unconnected. I am taking on new behaviours (I now say “you are lost”), new language skills, new friendships and try new things.
This past weekend, a bunch of us gathered to play basketball on the court of a local highschool – I have not played basketball since…maybe Gr. 9? In Canada, my reference point to organized sports is a bunch of well-coordinated people running circles around me. As a person with two left feet (and two right hands, for that matter), “playing for fun” in these contexts often didn’t really feel fun. With them, though, I created a new reference point for sports – that they can actually, truly be played just for fun and it’s OK if you kinda stink at it. There was no concern about fouls or penalties (I don’t even know if those are basketball things – clearly, I didn’t learn anything). It was just for FUN. For the sake of laughing. If I am currently lost, or stay lost, it seems like a pretty sweet place to be.