When we left New Jersey, I told Ashley this trip would be a lesson in appreciating illiterate people. Far too many people have lived in the United States for years, yet still cannot read, write or speak the language. We count ourselves very lucky to have friends guiding us through the system.
Before we left home I tried to listen to Japanese language tapes, unfortunately I could not retain a simple sentence such as "do you speak English?" It all sounds like music to me -- lots of notes, but no lyrics. Same with the writing -- everyday words look like works of art to me, but I can't distinguish one from the other.
My eyes latch onto any English words, even when they don't quite make sense. My brain knows we are in a foreign country and instantly wants to speak French, even though I know that is wrong.
I keep counting our blessings that our main language is English. We'd be even further up the creek without a paddle if our main language was German or French or Spanish or Portuguese or, well, you get the idea.
I keep stumbling over the most basic words: please, thank you, hello, good-bye. Half-way into the trip, I've given up on basic mastery. I'm becoming an expert in pantomime and smiling. A couple of more weeks here, and I would be handing Ashley all of our money and having her translate for us for the entire time.
Yes, I am gaining an appreciation for the lives others lead. It is just a taste, after all I'm on vacation, they are struggling with daily living of grocery shopping, doctor's offices, government, etc.
It is truly a humbling experience.