Saturday, August 18, 2007

Silence in the Noise

I was out for a walk today and couldn’t get over how quiet it was. Mind you as I walked by sellers were still calling out prices loudly from their booths, the breaks on the buses were still screeching and grinding as they came to a halt, cars were honking at each other, the children were still running, laughing and playing, the old women still gossiped and greeted each other on the street, and music still flowed from the restaurants enticing people to come in, and the general bustle of big city life buzzed around me. Yet despite it all, I was amazed with how quiet it was, and how much I was alone with my personal thoughts.

I remember thinking the opposite back in March right after I went home. I was at a conference eating dinner and could barely focus on the person next to me from all the noise and distraction around. It may have only been the sound of forks scraping the last morsel of food from the plate, and the sound of people talking amongst themselves, but it seemed overwhelming. It was the talking I couldn’t tune out. Everyone was speaking English, and without even intentionally doing so, I found my self eavesdropping on everyone's conversations. I could have told you what the lady at the table behind us made for dinner the night before, or what was wrong with the guys car across from me. I knew how much the teenage girls paid for their new purses, and I knew the score of the hockey game. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of information that was coming at me.

I hear just as many people talking here, but my brain can not compute foreign languages at the same speed it can English. I still have to work to understand what the person I am talking to is saying, much less understand the guy across the street. In some ways it makes for a much quieter walk, to be able to enjoy the silence and self reflection. But it other ways it saddens me. Before I left I felt like I was making head way in the language, being able to carry on a conversation, but the silence in the midst of noise reminds me how far I have to go.

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