All, The Expat Chronicles

The Transplanted Translator

It’s funny how fear and insecurity change how you see the world. They work together like two lenses in a destructive pair of glasses, turning the once vibrant recipient of your gaze into a tainted version of its former self, twisted, blurred, and colored in a sickly hue.

I watched the landscape dance past my window as we journeyed away from the airport. This isn’t a mistake, I thought to myself. You love it here. You want this.

Suddenly, the previously crystalline sky and emerald green hills ran together in a muddied, watercolored blur.

The same landscape that had filled me with joy and excitement on my previous trips now left me with the strange feeling of being empty and at the same time full of doubt. Suddenly, the previously crystalline sky and emerald green hills ran together in a muddied, watercolored blur. What stood out in stark relief were the rickety shanty homes built haphazardly on the side of the highway: a seemingly endless row of termite-riddled posts, protected from the wind, rain, and prying eyes of strangers by severely oxidized aluminum sheets.

That is not an omen. I told myself. That is not where you’ll end up.

Even my inner voice shook with doubt.

This wasn’t a vacation. I wasn’t going home in a few weeks. I wasn’t here to take pictures, try some local fare, and buy a cute dress or two to take back with me.

Though I had dreamed about this moment since I was old enough to understand that there were other countries in the world, countries I could visit, countries I could live in, I still found myself immobilized by the fear of what was to come. This wasn’t a vacation. I wasn’t going home in a few weeks. I wasn’t here to take pictures, try some local fare, and buy a cute dress or two to take back with me.

This was my home now. And while the car that was quickly taking me away from the airport and my last chance to turn back wasn’t bringing me towards a shanty home, it was bringing me towards a world where budgets were tight, salaries didn’t cover all the bills, and professional language services weren’t something that people invested in, especially when Google Translate was ever-so-enticingly free.

Piece by piece, belonging by belonging, I began the process of inserting myself into this new world.

We pulled up to my new apartment and started unloading the car. Piece by piece, belonging by belonging, I began the process of inserting myself into this new world. I started putting out feelers, making connections, and adjusting to the ebb and flow of a different business paradigm. I kept my head up and I stood by my work.

And, like a freshly transplanted organ, I waited anxiously to see if my new host environment would accept me.

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