Monday, November 28, 2005

Different Yous in Different Countries.

Different "Yous" in Different countries.

As you go from country to country and spend time in them, you will become aware of an interesting phenomenon- you will assume a new role, so to speak in every country you visit and your image and self-image will change. In some countries you will be a low class nobody, in other countries you suddenly become a shining prince, a playboy or a lurid intellectual.

How so? Well, most people see themselves the way society around sees them. For example a man who is 5'7" in the US will always feel short and be aware of that all his life. He may or may not care about that, but he will still be short. A man who is making $27,000 a year is lower middle class in the US. He may again not care but he will still be of that economic status and be aware of it. A man who is average looking in the US may not attract too many women, and again, he may not care whether he does or not. However, his social standing will remain what it is and he will be aware of it.

Once he goes to another country, an amazing thing happens. Say, he goes to the Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean. He will immediately cease being short and poor. He will also cease being unpopular with women. In many such countries an average man is only 5'6"-5'7" and much poorer than he is. His looks will also not be average anymore as he will look interesting and exotic to people around him. He will be invited to other people's homes and possibly introduced to women. A previously obscure person is now somewhat of a celebrity in a new land. Therefore, his self-image changes whether he wants it or not. He becomes rich, handsome and of normal height.

If you do a good research on economics, demographics and culture of different countries, you will be able to locate the ones where you will become somewhat of a hero and an object of fascination. Sometimes, it can become annoying, too but if it ever comes to that, the airport is never too far away.

Also, the environment you are in affects you in yet another way- the way you feel about your life and see yourself changes depending on whether you are in some industrial cold city such as Cardiff, Wales or whether you are in the subtropical Rome surrounded by many amazing architectural landmarks, refined and loving art and people sophisticated people dressed in fashionable clothes.

In addition to that, there is a saying that a person who speaks two languages has two distinct souls. I am fluent in several and I must say that it is true. The "me" that speaks Spanish, Russian, Thai or Tagalog is a different " me " that speaks English. Thought processes in languages are different, logic is different and ways of expressing nuances of emotions and shades of meaning are different. Once you master these, you will sort of acquire multiple personalities except that they will not be neurotic ones but natural, healthy and each one assigned to a particular place and time period.

I became even more acutely aware of how amazing the variety of "me" became during my trip to Argentina this past summer. When I appeared on the streets of Buenos Aires, a city decorated by splendid European architects with the most ornate buildings and delicate monuments depicting Greek and Roman heroes everywhere, I myself became kind of ornate and delicate inside. I became like Buenos Aires and its very dignified and classy people. The way people responded to me was also different. They did not see me as short or poor or naive. I was seen kind of like part of the crowd and treated just like anybody else. In addition to that, I spoke Spanish to everybody. I became for all intents and purposes a completely different person, not a variation of "me" but simply a whole other "me".

A flight to South Africa and then Malaysia and then Philippines again kind of created a new "me". And when I left those countries I could not help but feel that the other me stayed behind and continued an independent existence in that place. He still got up, went around the city continued living his life long after I had left the country.
Perhaps, if there are parallel universes, or universes that split up , a new universe was indeed created and an" Argentinean me" stayed there to meet some girl, get married, have kids and live a whole new life there. Maybe without being aware of it, as we choose to either return home or go to yet another country, numerous copies of us stay there, maybe not quite "there" but in some quantum replica of it. Somehow I feel that it is true but I cannot prove it.

I left Thailand in 1996 after having suffered a business setback there. After having lived in Bangkok for several years, I felt like I was part of it and it was part of me. Leaving Thailand was quite painful for me as I felt that I was leaving a whole life there which consisted of me and my Thai environment. Later, in the year 2000 I flew over Bangkok and I could not help it that the Thai me was still somewhere in that city. Perhaps I gave birth to it, created a shell of a personality that continued to live on, and maybe a whole new Thailand was created as well that forked off into some strange universe and now, in that Thailand there was the Thai speaking me, with a Thai wife, a condominium on Silom Road and a great CEO position. But another me was flying over Bangkok into Manila where I was going to become the Philippine variation of me.

A lot of things can be explained away by logical reasoning but I somehow know that even in spite of the fact that the new me has to do with a different environment, I still give birth to strange siblings of me that continue their respective destinies in those countries long after I am gone. When I return there, I may become yet another me while being aware of the fact that the other me is still in that place albeit we will never meet for it would contradict some quantum law.

Living in many countries adds many new facets to one's personality, true. It even creates different varieties of you. However, I still think that on top of that, something strange happens as well and it cannot be easily dismissed as a result of romantic imagination. Song lines such as "Still in Saigon" and "I left my heart in San Francisco" may mean a lot more than we think.

No comments: