Yesterday, we had our final portion of orientation about culture shock--what it is and how to deal with it. We learned that the stages of culture shock include unconscious incompetence (is it ironic that I had to google how to spell incompetence...), conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious incompetence. Unfortunately, I am living in a constant state of consciousness of my incompetence. It can be difficult to communicate when you know how completely wrong you are pronouncing your words and how strong your accent is. Not only in speech does this incompetence manifest. I am continually acting like a typical American girl as seen by my constant smiling and laughing or just doing things wrong. For instance, during lunch today, I used a fork with a dish of a similar consistency of chicken pot pie but a little thicker. When my host brother came home, he could barely contain his smile at my ignorance, because it was definitely a dish eaten with a spoon. But, oh well. Or as the locals say it, no pasa nada. I'd rather be aware of what I'm doing wrong so I can correct it.
I am truly happy to be past the unconscious incompetence stage. While ignorance is bliss, it is nice to have some awareness of those things you say/do wrong. This past weekend, I met a Granadian (?) boy who upon realizing I was American insisted on speaking in English with me. Unfortunately, he was completely unaware of the fact that I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I just smiled and laughed when it seemed appropriately, all the while trying to switch to Spanish because I could understand that better than his English. I truly hope that my perception of my relative competence is not merely an illusion and that Spaniards gain a better understanding of me than I did of him.
Even so, I am beginning to understand the ways of the Spaniards. I truly think I could get used to the slower pace, the healthier eating, and all the walking. Maybe, someday, I will get past my awkwardness and be able to get through a day it.
That's a lie. For anyone out there who actually knows me, this is impossible. No matter where I go, I am sure to find the awkward and embrace it. However, maybe someday I can move into a relative state of competence. Until then....