Feeling through change

/ 16 February 2007

One of the things that is challenging about a trip like this, is that you just know it will bring change. But of what sort? how? will I notice?

Wednesday, as we were running through the airport at Dulles, in DC, there was a striking contrast between the end where we got off our plane: people crowded absolutely everywhere (because domestic flight weren't taking off), long lines of people snaking in and out of restaurants, all sorts of overheard conversations in American English, clothing of all sorts -- but all familiar; and where we got on our plane (on the opposite end of the terminal, where international flights take off): not as many people, calmer even than I think of ordinary flight days being, all sorts of languages leaking out and around conversations, all kinds of clothing -- much of it not familiar -- even the restaurants were different (no American fast food, for instance).

Even as I was running past, I could sense these differences, notice them in some subliminal way. I wonder if they will have the same impact six months from now? Will the "American" end of the airport feel different to me? Or the same? Will I notice the differing languages?

Sitting down on the Austrian Airlines plane almost EVERYTHING felt different; from the bright green and red upholstery, to the flight attendants' bright red uniforms, to the soft cadence of Austrian German being spoken, to the gifts they offered our kids as they boarded (a little backgammon game, and gummi candy shaped like airplanes). Different, but also familiar. I already began to feel like I was in Austria, even sitting at the gate in DC.

Friday afternoon we ventured into the local IKEA store (cheapest place to buy pillows), and the differences were much more subtle. Since IKEA uses all sorts of Swedish (or at least quasi-Swedish) names, the language wasn't a marker. The store looked the same, was arranged the same, had pretty much the same kinds of merchandise. Eventually I began to notice all sorts of dogs in the store. Pets on leashes, pets traveling in little pet baskets in carts, and so on. So that was one difference.

On the subway on the way back, Eric pointed out another subtle difference -- no logos! Once he pointed it out, it was pretty striking. Maybe it's because it's winter, and everyone has jackets and hats on, but there weren't any name brands obvious or visible (unlike in the US, where they're ubiquitous). It was restful!

So I wonder... will such differences still be obvious after we've been here a while? What will change in my consciousness and sensitivities these six months? Will I notice?