I have two neighbors. My building-mate Natalie and I call them “the chatty one” and “the angry one,” because one of them will talk to us for two hours at a time if she can, and the other will grunt and mutter and otherwise avoid talking to us unless absolutely necessary. The chatty one and I arrived home at the same time the other day, so of course we ended up in a lengthy conversation. Here’s a translation.
Her: “So, in the US, they live basically the same way we do, right? With marchés and the same rhythm of life and all that? It’s basically the same, right?”
Me: “Actually no, there’s a lot that’s different.”
Her: “really? There is? What are the differences?”
Me [struggling to answer this gigantic question but make it relatable to her]: Um, well… I mean, they don’t really have markets every day, and we keep our milk and eggs in the fridge (they don’t in France), and they also have stores that are open 24 hours”
“There are people that work at night?! To keep them open?” [shock and disbelief]
“How did you come here, then?”
“I came by airplane.”
“How long was the flight? About an hour, right?” [certainty]
“Actually it was about 10 hours.”
We then ascertained that I flew overnight.
Her: “So they had beds for you to sleep on in the plane? So you could lie down?”
“No, they don’t have beds on planes…”
“How did you sleep, then!? The seats must go back all the way?”
I managed to convince her that some people can sleep while sitting up, then she asked:
“So, are there cameras and security to walk around and make sure no one steals from people when they’re sleeping?”
[Anne realizes that this is literally the first time she has ever thought about the possibility of thievery on an airplane]
“Um, there are flight attendants, but there’s really not anywhere to escape when you steal something on an airplane, so it doesn’t happen very often…”
[Change of subject]
Her: “So everything goes well in the U.S., right? Americans always seem happy and it seems like everything always goes well there.”
“Well, I mean, people are people everywhere…There are still things that people aren’t happy about.”
“Ah, so they hide things!”
“I guess so…”
For those who think traveling is unimportant, this is why it is SO important. I suddenly felt lucky (not that I don’t always) to have been on a plane to another country, to have been educated about the world, to have experienced life in another place. It’s a privilege.
I’m most pleased that at least she was curious. If you want to know more, there is always more to know.