It was my first date since I left Peru. And I knew coming into it that it was going to be a challenge. In a way it was going to be therapeutic. I was right.
She was from Taiwan, picking strawberries at a farm for minimum wage so she could extend her visa in Australia. Where she worked there weren’t any Australians, only other backpackers who spoke in Asian languages. This date was rare English practice for her.
And she wasn’t great at it. The conversation over coffee, and later over green curry, was awkward. There wasn’t much of it.
I’d been there, in that same situation when I lived in Peru, before entering a relationship, where I went on dates where they couldn’t speak English. Back then I was the foreigner, and they were the local, and I was anxious, and they had all the power, or so I thought. And I was frustrated easily, and felt they were judgmental.
I realised then over flat whites, in a small Queensland city, how exhausting it was to be expected to hold the conversation as the local speaker. It was draining, but I had the luck of being on the other side of the table. Twice, her frustration showed, but it didn’t last long and it wasn’t her fault.
Questions that allowed for ambiguous answers was hard for her. “What is Australia like?” wasn’t going to get an answer, but “is Australia cold?” would.
By the time we went to the local Asian restaurant, and had ordered our food, I had figured out that even though I had no interest in learning Taiwanese, an interest in it was the way to bridge a friendship. I learned to count to three (and absorbed it surprisingly faster than I would have two years ago before practising Spanish), and asked about the objects, “what’s rice in Taiwanese? What’s water in Taiwanese? What’s fork in Taiwanese? What is chicken in….”
And I thought back to the time I was in Peru, and I saw my dating life there in an entire new light. And I saw the people there no longer as impatient, but as kind and confused as to how to bridge a connection.
It has been a while since I have posted. It hasn’t been abandoned. Resuming a normal life after an ex-pat one is still worth recording. It’s been a confusing time, and I have been so busy trying to sort out adulting (finding a place to live, set a household budget, get the hot water working) that I haven’t processed emotions until recently.
The date was healing, and before that I was kind of grieving.
Today I bought wi-fi from Telstra, and now it’s set up and I’m listening to Spotify. I’ve taken a few hours off since the last sentence, with a few old friends from the west coast passing through and inviting me out for a few beers.