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A Comedy of Immigration

Silent Signing

By Azadeh AfsharianPublished about a month ago 3 min read
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Immigrating to a new land has many aspects, with great opportunities and, of course, some weaknesses. For myself, everything has improved, and I am happy with everything, except for one tiny problem: the people in the new land I immigrated to cannot speak my language.

Imagine being in the midst of a great communication with foreign people and really enjoying a nice, friendly discussion, but not being able to say even a single word - just smiling and, if you had a tail, shaking it vigorously for them.

It is not important how much I read books and poems, and how much I memorize them, or how many ideas I have, or how much I can cite from outstanding works of famous international literature on the topic we discuss; 'all are dancing in my mind,' but my tongue remains motionless. However, I keep smiling and shaking my head to show I am agreeing without any positive or negative comment.

This situation reminds me of one time when I decided to buy a talking cockatoo bird as my wonderful pet. I told the seller that I was looking for a talking cockatoo bird with specific preferences, one that could already have learned some poems. He showed me a row, saying, 'All of these talking cockatoo birds can read poems.'

The first one was beautiful, young, and healthy. I asked about the price. He said $2000. 'Which poem has he learned?' I asked. He said a poem by Paulo Coelho. My budget was not enough, so I asked about the next one. He said $4000. With an impressed voice, I asked, 'Which poems has he learned?' 'William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson,' he said. I went to the end of the row and found a dirty, less feathered, and old cockatoo. I guessed that one could match my budget. 'How much is this one?' I asked.

He said, 'Sorry, this one is not for sale. This one is priceless, and I cannot estimate its price.' I was truly impressed. 'How come? What can he say?' I asked. He answered, 'I don’t know; he never said any words, but all these cockatoos have called him Prof.'

In most situations, the people of a new land speak about something that makes me laugh, but suddenly, I realize it is a sad story. At other times, they laugh, and I wonder why they are happy amidst such difficult and sorrowful circumstances. Remember the episode of the television series "Friends" where Joey didn't understand the conversation's subtleties due to his lack of information, so he laughed with a delay. Therefore, similarly to him, I began to learn about the histories and gestures of the culture. However, much like Joey, who only read one book of the encyclopedia and struggled to understand other situations, in my initial social interactions, I faced similar challenges because the new land is a multicultural place, and I needed to familiarize myself with the entire world.

Reverse talking is the most bewildering part, like when a cashier asks, "Do you want to use your points?" and the customer responds with "I'm good," which apparently means "no" in this delightful world of linguistic gymnastics. Similarly, when queried, "Do you need a bag?" and the reply is a cheerful "No problem," it magically translates to "yes."

When I shared all these aspects of my experience in the new land with my family and friends, they asked me why I didn't return to my homeland, where people know me as a knowledgeable person. They suggested I could have a high-level job and so on. I replied, "No." I am deeply entrenched in something that the new land has given me, something I cannot simply abandon forever. It's akin to a mother struggling through numerous challenges and difficult times with her baby; she cannot leave it behind and feels an everlasting sense of belonging to her child.

Fiction
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About the Creator

Azadeh Afsharian

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