I remember my first trip back to Canada. At that time I was overwhelmed at the speed my brain could process it’s native language and therefore the amount of information I gathered through unintentional eavesdropping. I would be at a large group event and struggle focuses on the person in front of me because my ears, rejoicing at hearing the familiar buzz of English, would pick up bits and pieces of everyone’s conversations. I knew about the new puppy one family had gotten, or how poorly one women’s son was doing in his high school physic’s class, I knew the girl across the way was waiting to hear back from the cute guy she had gone out with the other night and I knew who had spent more on redoing their kitchen. At that time I still lacked the listening skills to be able to interact with the world around me to that level in Uyghur.
Now that I have been living overseas for almost six years I find myself equally as subconsciously taking in the event s of the lives of my neighbours in Central Asia. I can understand when they call their friend from the bus to inform them that we are running late because we are stuck in traffic. I can hear the girls sitting behind me comparing answers they got on their afternoon math test. I know that the women and her daughter were just looking at dresses for the daughter’s upcoming wedding. The more I understand the more I feel more like a part of life there. I have also come to realize how similar the topics of small talk are around the world.
That is why I was shocked last week when I was sitting in Timmies sipping my double double (for all you none Canadians out there, that is a Tim Horton’s coffee with two cream and two sugars). Since I was sitting at the table alone I found my attention being drawn to their other coffee shop customers. I quickly realized that I couldn’t understand a word of what anyone was saying. The group directly behind me was speaking Cantonese, I think. Those to my left sounded more German, on my right I heard the semi familiar sounds of Spanish… or was that Protégées they were speaking. Finally above the din of the mini UN meeting taking place over several hot cups of coffee I distinctly heard someone say “while my granddaughter just loves her kindergarten teacher”. There it was, there was my mother tongue, there was a group of people speaking English again, there was the familiarity that I was craving.
My trip to the coffee shop left me slightly in disbelief at how much I miss even in my own context, but it also left me very proud to be a Canadian. If one coffee shop is any sort of microcosm for the rest of our nation, than here in Canada we have something quite unique. Here we are sounded by the world, people from all different ethnicities, countries and backgrounds living in one area, not to mentioned joined by the common love of one great cup of coffee ( no this blog post was not sponsored or paid for by Tim Hortons- but I wouldn’t say no to a free cup of coffee if their offered it).