At our bi-weekly men’s breakfast this morning we got talking about the changing demographics in our country, which prompted one of the guys to speculate that Spanish will one day become our official language in the U.S.

My first reaction was “probably not in my lifetime.”

My second thought was “learning the language of whatever you are emigrating to is a task that millions and millions of people work at every day.

Then I thought of my Grandma Mary.  The name Holmes is English so that side of the family would tease her and put her down because of her heavy German accent. 

I’m meeting next week with a woman who is going on the Thailand Mission Trip with me.  This “year” it’s in January.  What I will try to communicate to her is that one purpose of the trip is to take Americans out of their comfort zone where visitors have to adapt to our language, food and customs and be able to see themselves/ourselves from the point of view of an outsider.

That’s what travelling to Thailand always does to me.  It puts me in the place of a foreigner who is never really sure about what is really going on and can’t speak Thai well enough to find out.  That experience can be exciting and even exhilarating at times, but there is always some discomfort, some sense of security.  A small example.  At my age I have to use the bathroom more often than when I was younger, but it doesn’t bother me much when I’m travelling in the U.S. because I know that McDonald’s has public bathrooms I can use, that they are open all day and that the golden arches are almost everywhere.  A Thai who has just gotten off the plane at O’Hare doesn’t know that.  In the same way, when I’m in Thailand I don’t know a lot of things, little things that Thais take for granted.  For example many Thais keep some small change in their pockets because at the door to many bathrooms sitting on a chair will be a “cleaning lady” whom will pay five or ten cents to use the toilet.  Oh yes, and bring a small roll of toilet paper along.  In some places, there is none.

So here we are living in a changing country in a changing world.  For me, it’s healthy to regularly get to a place where I’m the foreigner, because if I don’t keep in practice at functioning outside my comfort zone, I’ll one day wake up and discover I’ve been left way behind.

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