25 June 2008

I Am Foreign, Not Stupid

I was talking to a Russian acquaintance yesterday, recounting my story about the train mishap on the way to Pskov. I concluded by saying that "living in a foreign country is no good for people with an overdeveloped sense of personal pride." And how - last night after returning home from buying train tickets, I was standing outside my entryway talking to a girl who lives a few floors below me, when someone dumped AN ENTIRE BUCKET OF WATER on me from one of the apartment balconies. My ticket got wet, my copy of Master and Margarita got wet, the inside of my purse got wet, and of course I myself was absolutely drenched.

I don't really like the girl I was talking to - it's not a story worth getting into, but suffice to say that she's rude and disrespectful. When she "discovered" me in April she spent a week calling me nonstop in order to show me off to her friends, and giving my number to lots of teenage boys. Of course I ignored her calls once I figured out what was going on. Anyway, I suspect she was involved in the water-dumping. She and the crowd of friends she was with laughed heartily. Being rather shocked, I laughed, too, and did my best to pretend that I wasn't mad. I just said, "If you find out who that was, tell them I said thanks," and left.

Anyway. The title of this post is from a comment my friend Rita made on Rosa's personal page about her adventures and misadventures this summer in Cambridge (the link is not to Rosa's personal page, but to her candy blog). Sometimes I wish I had a t-shirt that said "I Am Foreign, Not Stupid" in huge letters. Obviously it's something you encounter in any country - all of us, if we're not careful about it, tend to treat people who speak with an accent or who don't understand the system as if they were a little slow. It's natural, I guess, and sometimes helpful. It's been good for me, anyway, to have to swallow my pride again and again; you can't exactly shout something like "You people have NO IDEA how smart I am!", no matter how much you want to. And it's been good for me to come to terms with the fact that people really do mean well when they ask me things like, "Can you figure out how to save my number on your cellphone?" or "Have you ever been to the train station? Can you get there yourself? Do you need help getting a tram?"

But with this girl and her adolescent friends it goes beyond that. They don't seem to have any dislike for me personally or for Americans in general - just the idea that foreigners are too dull-witted to notice or be offended when you're laughing at them. Of course, it's not worth getting upset about. If anything, I should feel bad for them, right?


TJ Root said...

See, if you had said "If I find out who did that, I am going to burn them alive on their beds" the kids probably would have stopped laughing. That would have sealed the deal that they were involved. Probably not good for foreign relations though.


Anonymous said...

Or, you could get a Super-Soaker and drench them all in one retaliatory fell swoop, Valley Beach style. Sweeet! :0)


Rosa said...

What a horrible thing to do! But you are better than them and you have our love and they don't, so there!

Nana said...

For Korea, I want a t-shirt that says "I'm white, not stupid." A Y-bomb generally makes the point, but at the cost of making you feel like a total dick. But it's fun to watch them go from condescending to "Can you get my child in?"

Leslie said...

Haha, wow. Y-bombs don't work in Russia, since almost no one has heard of The Y here. I don't really mind, though, since it means I've been able to name my alma mater *without* feeling like a total dick (and without the whole beating-around-the-bush thing: "Where'd you go to school?" "Uh... in Connecticut." "Oh, where in Connecticut?" "Um, New Haven?") for two whole years!