Shells and Universes

I’m in Bali. On my second day of working as an interpreter for a seminar/workshop on intercultural understanding and communication by a German organisation. If it seems weird that I’m in a situation where it demands my socialising and interacting with a lot of other people, believe me, it is.

I’ve pretty much stayed in my shell for quite a long time. I mean, c’mon. The tagline for my blog at this moment is ‘we are all, in ourselves, a small universe’. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. So this circumstance is a huge culture shock, especially because the seminar/workshop participants come from different countries and they bring their own styles of address, issues, agendas, opinions, beliefs, and personality into the mix.

Although I know that a lot of people would disagree and I myself don’t seem the part, but I’m actually very shy. Perhaps not in familiar situations or when surrounded by familiar people but yeah, I am. It actually takes longer for me to shed the feeling of unease and awkwardness that most people feel when entering a new environment or encountering new people. I just hide it better.

Anyway, being in such a situation with the many differing – and sometimes opposite – characters exposes me to their many antics. Some I only observe but some I have to be involved in. And I have to say that several instances are like refresher courses on why I choose to limit my contact with other people.

In interactions with others, there are boundaries. Problems arise when these boundaries differ and, either from the lack of understanding or simply from indifference, are thus overstepped. There are things you’re not supposed to say, questions you’re not supposed to ask, acts you’re not supposed to do but well, they still are (if you’re wondering at the irony of this taking place in an intercultural seminar/workshop, yep, I’ve noticed).

It is said that you should not take things personally. However, when it affects my person, may it be my feelings or principles, how can they possibly expect that? I suppose developing a thick skin is an option but somehow I have a feeling that I wouldn’t like myself very much if I did. I carefully constructed my shell – you can also say my entire mini-universe – in order to have a personal space into which I can withdraw and avoid the necessity of having a thick skin.

So for now, I just have to grin and bear it. After all, I’m not Asian for nothing.


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