Laughter has no foreign accent.
I’ve recently had a few incidents in which I am quite sure that the locals had a good laugh at my expense. It didn’t really bother me too much when I was giggled at by a group of women at the local market – maybe I said the wrong word in Khmer, maybe they were laughing at my sweat soaked clothes – who knows, it was innocent enough. It did offend me though when I almost got knocked off my bicycle my a crowd of experienced motor bike drivers while trying to get home, and everyone who witnessed literally let out an audible laugh. Laughing about the fact that I’m not used to the insanity that is the road system in Cambodia, now that just hurts (navigating these streets isn’t easy)!
But then the other night I went with some girlfriends to the riverside. We were all laughing, taking photos of the neighborhood, pretend dancing alongside the public jazzercise classes, and as we walked along I began to wander if my tourist-gawking, obsessive photo taking was just as offensive to the locals we were watching as it was to me when I was to be the subject of laughter at the market.
Coming full circle I think not. I have come to expect that I am going to make a complete fool out of myself from time to time while I am adapting to living in a culture so different from my own. And when I join in with the enthusiastic evening aerobics class, or take photo after photo of my surroundings, I am capturing the essence of my experience. I’m absorbing moments that will become strong memories. Reminders not to take life so seriously.