(Written January 26th)
I think one of the primary reasons why I’ve been having such a tough time adjusting is due to the impossible paradox of trust. As students studying abroad, we are prepped with months and months of urgent warnings about the potential dangers of our experience:
“Don’t let anyone know your number or where you live: they will come get you.” “Don’t spend too much time fiddling with your keys outside the door: someone will take note of where you live and get you.” “Don’t carry your credit card with you: someone will steal it.” “Don’t keep anything in your pocket: someone will pick-pocket you.” “Don’t wear expensive jewelry: someone will rip it off.” “Don’t catch an infant someone throws at you: it’s a gypsy ploy to steal from you.” “Don’t make eye contact or talk to anyone who greets you: they will take advantage of you.” “Don’t let someone buy you a drink: they will drug slip you.” “Don’t believe the check you are given: the owner is trying to jip you off.” “DON’T TRUST ANYONE.”
Filling us with fear keeps us from breaking out of our shells and breaking into the culture. And it only exasperates the fears, worries, anxieties and paranoia that we’re already facing. Here is the problem with a golden rule of “Don’t trust anyone:” we MUST trust people here in order to get by. Whether it’s asking for directions when lost, making necessary purchases like food, or simply being friendly so that core groups of people and places can be established, a level of trust is imperative. I will never break out of feeling so unbearably anxious here if I am constantly in belief that I will get taken advantage of in some way. Yes, caution and awareness is absolutely vital, and any situation that seems even slightly awry should be abandoned. But constantly living in utter fear as the norm simply defeats the purpose of being here and makes it impossible to feel like this can be my home.