I have never tried to stop cursing. I moderate my foul-mouth infusions for social circumstances and present company but sometimes, a well-placed curse word or phrase makes the point in such a way that no other combination of polite words can. In fact, the proper use and timing of cursing makes all the difference in the world. One who peppers every other sentence with the “F” word loses the opportunity for impact when needed.
I’ve heard folks say that cursing is only done by those with inferior intellect whose normal vocabulary is so limited that cursing is their last resort. I completely disagree. In fact, I consider my substantial vocabulary of curse words and phrases a completely separate language…one in which I am quite proficient. I was fluent and bi-lingual long before I took on Spanish.
Like any other language, one learns the language of cursing slowly, picking up words and phrases along the way, understanding meaning, context and definition over time. One must practice this language as one learns, the first attempts naturally awkward and laughable. I was a willing student and a quick learner! I attended accelerated classes in locker rooms while playing sports and did my post-graduate work in cursing with 8 years in the Air Force and 2 tours in Vietnam. I spent considerable time in environments where this new language was an integral part of the culture.
I became an expert linguist in my new language and now call upon it whenever extra impact or emphasis is required or sometimes, just to express my personal feelings about something that is just wrong! Living life as an Expat in a country when things sometimes go wrong provides plenty of opportunities to maintain my cursing skills!
In no particular order, here are my Top Three Challenges of living overseas and every damned one of them makes me curse!
1. Banking There are essentially two ways to handle your personal finances when living overseas. The first is to maintain bank accounts in your home country and access your funds through ATM machines, electronic payments, credit/debit purchases and wire transfers for large purchases. On 5-6 occasions over the years, my bank has “Locked” my account as they suspected fraudulent activity. I had no access to my money. Fortunately, there has never been any fraudulent activity but contacting my bank and going through all their security processes to unlock my account is maddening. Every time my bank has locked my account, I can count on 1-2 days (once it took over a week) to unlock my money guaranteeing a string of my finest cursing. We’ve learned to always keep some cash around…just in case!
The second way to manage your money as an expat is to open a local account in your new home country and have your money sent directly to your new, foreign bank.
Whether one maintains a bank account in your home country or opens a local account, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Losing access to my money definitely makes me curse!
2. Language Issues My Spanish is improving every day but I cannot honestly claim much proficiency. I’m to the point where I “get by” but I cannot carry on a social conversation without asking the person to speak slowly and repeat several times. The locals in both Ecuador and here in Mexico seem to be patient, most of the time. It is I who is mostly impatient!
Communication is essential and I have sometimes resorted to what looks like cave drawings on the back of a napkin. Other times, I use mime and interpretive dance to try to express my thoughts. It’s a struggle that lessens VERY SLOWLY day by day. Not knowing how to effectively communicate in Spanish provide ample opportunities for me to use my “other” language. I must perfect my cursing in Spanish!
3. Driving and Traffic Engineering I do not claim to be an excellent driver. I only claim, at best, to be an average driver with moments of horrible mixed with complete awesomeness…sometimes.
I have found that driving in a foreign country is a mirror of the culture. The well-known Machismo in Latin American cultures seems to find its way onto the roadways with high speed driving and aggression clearly visible. I have seen far fewer women drivers compared to men, as vehicles weave carelessly through traffic at high speeds, cutting others off as if dangerously passing other cars is a competition that must be won.
Roadways may be well maintained as is the case here in Mexico (Ecuador was in the process of a years-long improvement process) but traffic engineering is lacking compared to North America. While the roads may be smooth and paved, lanes are often not marked allowing for individual interpretation and guts to sort things out. Is this a 2 lane road? 3 lanes…1.5 lanes? Without lines designating lanes, the one with the largest vehicle usually wins. Buses never lose and they are bullies!!
Entrances to business and parking lots are often unconventional and unmarked. Recently, we went to a large major-brand restaurant. After dinner, we followed the exit arrows painted on the asphalt only to discover that the arrows led us to an exit that was blocked. A telephone pole was installed plumb-smack in the middle of the exit lane, complete with heavy guy wires. There was no way to exit in that direction, despite the signs and arrows. The lot was poorly lit so I suspect more than one customer has followed the exit arrows directly into the phone pole. We found our way out using an alley behind the building that was NOT marked.
I think I generally do pretty well dealing with the challenges of living the life of an expat. On those days when I’ve encountered some particularly annoying challenges, I simply have to take a look at the gorgeous Caribbean Sea steps away from our front door and things seem to come back into balance. After all, life in the U.S. had plenty of challenges. I wouldn’t trade this life for my old life in the states. Nope! Not a chance!!.
And besides, dealing with these frustrations allows me to keep up with my cursing. I’d hate to lose it! Soon…cursing in Spanish!