Where I live in Central Asia it is a known fact that there are some topics we just don't discuss out loud in public. Anything about the government and politics or religion could easily get you in trouble if over heard by the wrong person. We as foreigner to the area have learned to either avoid having in depth conversations about these topics in public places, or we speak fluent English at a rapid pace in slurred hushed tones, choosing abbreviations or words that we know most local people have not studied. This way of life has become so normal to me over the past few years that I don't really think of it as that unusual anymore.
Last night when I went out with one of my old friends for coffee (yeah Timmy's when ever I want), we had a great conversation. We not only touched on the superficial topics like the weather and whatnot, we started taking about politics (even complaining about how the garbage pick up strike was handled) In Central Asia you never criticize the governments handling of an issue out loud. From there we moved on to religion and our own personal beliefs. It was a great chance to catch up.
About an hour or so into our conversation my friend asked me what I was looking for. I was rather confused by her question and she told me that I kept looking around. Anytime we changed into what would normally be a sensitive conversation to have in such an open location, I found myself taking a quick glance over my shoulder. I was checking to see who was in ear shot, and if they seemed to notice us or be paying attention to our conversation. I must have repeated this "check out our surroundings" glance several times throughout the night. I didn't even consciously know I was doing it...but our conversation just seemed so open I wanted to make sure no one was watching us. It is just another way that living over seas has changed me. I now view what we often take for granted as 'rights' in Canada, as really a gift of freedom many others around the world do not get to enjoy.