So, I had hoped that a part of this whole pack-up-and-move-to-Europe thing would be some personal growth and maybe some knowledge gained about other cultures I have yet to experience.
Well, today was the ultimate test to that experience. I think most of you know that I take a language class and I absolutely love it. It’s a private school, with an intensive program to teach you what you need to know so you can go out and get on with your new life in Deutschland (right up my alley). An unexpected perk is that not only do I get to learn from some pretty super awesome teachers, but I also get to meet really incredible people from pretty much all over the world. For the most part, I like everyone that I’ve had class with. Some people of course are more entertaining than others, but I don’t dislike anyone.
Which brings us to today. There’s a girl that sits on the side of me in class. On a basic level, you would think I would connect with her: She’s in her mid-twenties, she’s been married for only a few years and has a son the same age as Oli. Sometimes she has to come in late b/c she has to bring her son to daycare. And then she’ll ask me questions about something she missed.. But, well, y’all know me and my nerdiness. I try to be nice, because I like her as a person, but well, “Don’t freaking bother me when I’m trying to learn!” I can’t help myself, I’m just that student. Anyways, today we had a lesson on German words for weddings. One of our activities was to talk about a wedding we’ve been to (or our own wedding). Of course I go on and on, blathering about my shoes and the dress and whatnots. And then we turn to her. I guess I should preface what I’m about to say with a few basic facts: she comes from the Middle East, and I think she is Muslim- she’s never said her religion, but she does wrap her hair (logical thought process). Now, I like to think that I am very open and accepting of people with different cultures and belief systems. I will never ever tell you that Catholicism is the best or only religion anyone should follow. And you’ll never hear me shout “‘Murica!!!” But I almost fell out of my chair when this woman told me that she had not once laid eyes on her husband before their wedding. WHAT? HUH? Excuse me?
It was at that moment that I thanked the Lord silently that I was born and raised in the South. Not only because I had been taught enough grace and manners that I was able to withhold my reaction internally, but I wasn’t part of an arranged marriage. I’m not going to say that I think an arranged marriage is completely wrong- cultural circumstances, unfortunately, make it difficult for a woman to just go out and find her own man in some parts of the world. But I’ve never known any person who had actually been part of an arranged marriage, much less not even seen a picture of their husband before the wedding ceremony. The concept is a lot harder to wrap your brain around when it is presented right in front of you. Not to mention, I can’t remember the last time my parents ever told me what to do, much less made me do something. I’ve pretty much made my own decisions since I was 17. I worked, I moved out of the house, I had my own car. I dated, I partied (sometimes a little too much, but hey, it was MY mistake to make).
I have a feeling I’m going to hear that stupid game I had as a teenager in my dreams tonight, “It’s time to play Brain Warp!”