As I was falling asleep last night (disgracefully early, I might add — I think the Portuguese were just starting in on their appetizers,) I was trying to imagine what it’ll be like when go to Britain in six weeks’ time. As I’ve said before, Gabe always teases me about anticipating everything too much, to the point where I often work myself into a sleepless frenzy. But lack of sleep aside, I find that the anticipation increases my enjoyment of something if I get to live it twice: once in my head, once in real life.

Since I’ve been planning our trip to Britain these past few days, naturally I am already entering into anticipation mode. By the time we get there, it will have been more than six months since we’ve been to a country where English is the first language. True, some of the places we’ve been to hardly count (Israel and Sweden, I’m looking at you), but still, English is not officially their first language.

When we were in Sweden, I was thinking how strange it will be to actually understand road signs and billboards again. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to understanding them, or to being forced to understand all the inane conversations that I overhear. Here I can tune everything out as mere noise, which means I’m pleasantly isolated in my own little world. Of course that presents a problem when someone does actually start talking to me, as most of the time I either miss it entirely or am too spacey to piece together what they’ve said.

For example, as I was checking in at the gym the other day, the guy put a glass bowl filled with slips of paper on the counter in front of me. I thought they were trying to get me to sign up for something by putting my name into the bowl, so I said, “Nao, obrigada.” Eventually, after three of the employees all explained it to me simultaneously in rapid Portuguese, it seemed that I was intended to take a paper out of the bowl, as it was a promotion for the spa they had downstairs. I did as I was told, and ended up with 50% off any spa service. Now that would have been one unfortunate misunderstanding!

For the most part though, I’ve gotten good at watching body language very closely to see when someone’s talking to me, and then saying, “Excuse me?” as if I simply hadn’t heard what they said. Fake it til you make it — that’s my main motto for living here.

But soon, I won’t have to worry about that any more. I won’t have to wrack my brains when trying to ask the simplest of questions, or make the smallest comment about the weather. I won’t risk missing out on discounted massages at my gym, and no longer will food labels be an arduous task of decoding that makes a trip to the grocery store take hours. The most dire miscommunication I might have in Britain will be getting a funny look for ordering a cappuccino “nonfat” instead of “skimmed.” After all my linguistic and cultural mishaps this year — getting thrown out of the swimming pool, running out of money in the grocery store — that will be one mistake I can handle.

When we arrived here from England, nearly nine months ago now, I found Lisbon strange, foreign, overwhelming. Now this is my life, and while still overwhelming at times, at least it’s somewhat less foreign. What will England seem like now? Will I be shocked by the sleek modernity of it all, as I was in Sweden? Or will I find it sterile and cold, and miss these graffiti-clad, tumbledown buildings? From here, I think it’ll feel like I’m one step closer to Home, which will be a very welcome step indeed.

As I said, anticipation is the salt of my life, the accent that makes all experiences just that little bit better.

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