“Where is Starbucks when we need it?”

As you may have noticed, I am a very homebound person. Proudly. 🙂 So, the bank holiday weekend that just passed was precisely what I needed to restore myself after having spent much of the last two weeks on the road. Except for a small stroll in North London on Saturday, I stayed in and did some worrying amount of YouTubing. Randomly jumping from one clip to another, mostly about years-old Korean TV shows that I had vaguely heard of. I imagine this is what people do with their Netflix. We don’t have it at home so I can only imagine.

And now for something completely different. A French professor I once met at a seminar told the rest of us that when she was travelling in China decades before, i.e. when it was a pretty closed country, what unsettled her most was, funnily, the complete absence of the Latin alphabet in her surroundings. I don’t know what about this anecdote left such an impression on me that I recall it every now and then.

In my case, I would get by if I were placed in a culture having incorporated Chinese characters. I would not be able to understand what is being spoken to me, but I would probably be able to navigate around based on what is written. If it was one of the Romance languages, again, I would be able to make some educated guesses and be smug about that.

Last month, I spent 3 days in Cologne and 5 days in Manila, almost back-to-back. In the former, I had absolutely no idea what any of the signposts was telling me. For that feeling of illiteracy alone (or maybe plus the absence of Starbucks in sight), I felt more foreign in Cologne than in Manila, even though Manila was farther away geographically. Almost 15 hours away by direct flight!

Anyway, this is one of those posts with no conclusion. I just wanted to leave a reminder for myself that such a simple change in the environment, i.e. switching to a slightly different set of alphabet letters, could throw one off balance. Such delicate beings we are.


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