Hidden away in a drawer in my kitchen is a stack of user manuals for all the appliances in the apartment–those that came with the apartment, and those for the devices we’ve since purchased. The pile is 22 cm high (that’s about 8 1/2 inches for us metric illiterates!) because they contain at least 10 languages each. Wading through those pages, hoping/praying the very next page will contain English words, is a gamble. Then, just when you think you’re on the road to using that dishwasher, you see the words, “BEFORE FIRST USE: FILL THE SALT CONTAINER.”
I love salt. I fill my salt shaker often– I sprinkle salt on my eggs, my vegetables, my potatoes…all before taking my prescription for high blood pressure. But in my DISHWASHER? A (hopefully) new friend commented the other day, “On moving here, I felt like every competency I’d ever had disappeared.” She expressed just how I’ve been feeling–cooking, cleaning, shopping, talking, driving–everything I’d done well less than 2 months ago is now a lesson in humility. Determining what kind of salt, where to buy it, where to stick it (I know where I’d like to stick it, Mr. Engineer who designed this dishwasher!) and how often is just as tricky for me weighing and labeling my produce at DelHaize, determining how vigorously Mark and I pursue interaction at church, and practicing a phone call to a restaurant asking “reservation pour deux, s’il vous plait.”
So now what? Will we let the language paralyze us as we navigate life here in Luxembourg or will we gear up on practicing with Duo Lingo–after all, I am 5 percent fluent in French! Will we stay in our cozy apartment and ignore the culture around us, or will we have a 200 Euro fish dinner and get stuck in a parking garage (really–more on that later). Nope, my next challenge is finding microwave popcorn I can fix in my newest appliance. The good thing is, I can season it generously with salt!