Saturday, May 24, 2008

Linguistic victory, cultural understanding, and shoes

Yesterday, I passed my first language exam! While this accomplishment means more to me than many a test from my past, the bigger victory took place on Wednesday.

As I rode the #19 tram home from language school, a store caught my eye. In the window of this shop, there was a display of shoes that were perfect for wearing around the house. (Let me explain. Shoes are not worn inside homes here in Hungary. I've been slipping around in slipper socks on the tile floors and needing something with a sturdy sole. Anyway, back to Wednesday...)

Entering the store, I acknowledged the shopkeeper with the polite, traditional greeting and began to browse. As he followed me to the display, I turned and told him that I didn't know my Hungarian shoe size. Later, after that mystery was solved by converting from U.S. to European, to Hungarian, to this particular brand's sizing system, the dialogue continued. I asked for a specific color, mentioned that one pair was too small, and assertively stated that I didn't want some decorative options found nearby. Did I mention that this conversation took place completely in Hungarian?? Oh yes, my friends.

Payment followed at the cash register and the cultural understanding continued when I got "Sajnos..." from the young lady there. "Unfortunately..." she couldn't give me smaller change for the bus. This kind but weak -faced statement is very common and not a big deal, but I was thrilled that I understood what was going on.

I have so much to learn about the people, traditions, perspective, and language, but for one day, in one shop, I had victory! After exiting the store, I cranked up my iPod and strolled back to the tram in the evening sunshine. Life's simple pleasures are my favorite.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your first steps into mastering the language and understanding the culture! And thanks for letting us share this adventure with you through your blog and photo albums! I miss you and think of you often, and you are in my prayers always. The school year was not the same without you! Deb M.