This was originally posted on our family blog in 2012
Growing up, our family had a housekeeper/nanny from Mexico. When she moved in, she didn’t know a single word of English. She was an important part of our childhood and has had a lot of influence in who I am today. Other than her cooking and gentle demeanor, there was another part of her that has encouraged me in our new life overseas: She moved to a foreign country, didn’t know the language, didn’t have friends to help her out, and she slowly figured it all out.
I have thought of her often when we are trying to deal with a government office, or buy groceries we don’t recognize, or figure out banking. A whole stack of memories I have are of her at the dinner table with her little notebook. She would ask about several words at each meal, following up with the kids later for better pronunciation. In a few years, she went from no English to almost fluent, and she mostly learned from children.
One time, we were in the grocery store, and she was holding a zucchini and laughing hysterically. Once she could compose herself, she looked up the word in her dictionary for zucchini. What she found so funny was that American zucchini were about double the size of those in Mexico. I never understood how she felt until we went grocery shopping in the middle east. Produce shopping in another country is like being on another planet.
These might seem like simple examples. But, living overseas can be a soul crushing, depressing, exhausting experience at times. But, she did it. She kept trying, she took it slow, and she asked for help from those around her. That is a great way to not go completely nuts, and learn to love a place.