I’ve found that living in another country changes you slowly, in subtle ways. I’ve shared too much already about the degrees and varieties and severity of my very real sweat issue. Becoming not only accustomed, but comfortable, with those things is just one way in which I’ve adapted to life here.
Fashion. I’ve never been…I don’t have the word right now, is it current? I feel like my mom would use that word, but it’s true. Never quite current. I’m comfortable with how I dress, even here, but lately it’s taken a few turns for the worse. Before I went home for Christmas, a co-worker said to me, “Oh wow, today you look like Kari-girl, normally you look like Kari-mom.” I had two thoughts. 1. Fair enough, I basically am a mom for 19 girls, so I might as well look the part. 2. What?
This issue has been exaggerated by a recent purchase, which can only be described as orthopedic-sneakers/sandals-the-design-of-which-must-have-been-stolen-off-the-feet-of-a-wheel-chair-ridden-grandmother-in-the-1970’s. Platform shoes rounded but not thinned, not in any way thinned. They add at least 3 inches to my height, which is already several inches above all of my co-workers. I literally roll around the house and, yes, the streets of Kolkata on these marvels of modern shoe design. The man who sold them to me assured me that no one notices your shoes. Doubtful. However, they’ve been a huge hit with my Indian co-workers and the girls. I have two other very clear benefits from this purchase: 1. My lower back pain is almost completely gone and 2. I now consider my Birkenstocks to be my ‘cool’ shoes for special occasions, not a common sentiment for most people in their mid-twenties without dread-locks or a legal amount of marijuana in their possession.
Final change: I was getting ready the other day when I noticed the same blond hair sticking out in front of my eyes that had been there for the last few days. I pulled it to the side, and there it was. It was not a blond hair at all. My first white hair, right in the middle of my forehead. I left it. It’s a mark of wisdom.
I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t be left alone in the bathroom for very long. Multiple reasons, but primarily because my appearance is almost inevitably altered as a result. When I was about eight years old, I knocked my two front teeth out with a hammer over a period of about two hours while my mom was gone and my dad was apparently very distracted. Lately, I just cut my hair. In college, I would assure my roommates it was ‘just a trim’ and come back with 3-4 inches missing.
I’ve started back in the habit in response to some comments from my more ornery co-workers. For about 6 months I would join in their exclamations of “Joi Jesu” (praise Jesus). I foolishly assumed I understood the joke. If I know anything with certainty it’s that I rarely, if ever, understand the jokes here. So, they would come into our office and say, “Joi Jesu!” and look at me, waiting for my response. I always joined in with gusto, which only made them laugh more, but I thought we were praising Jesus because one of them was getting married in the next few months and I wanted to show my enthusiasm. If it were only that simple. As it turns out, I apparently closely resemble many portraits of our risen Lord, especially my hair. Another friend heralded my recent appearance as Aslan in Voyage of the Dawn Treader as a remarkable debut into the world of film. I decided it was time for a change, but what did I get? I got the curly bowl cut all over again, this time self-induced. Some people shouldn’t run with scissors, I shouldn’t shower with them.