The week I decide to post something about how I can’t complain about my life in Libya, I end up having the worst week yet of my first year here. A lot of the frustrations of last week had to with things which I can’t possibly ‘blame’ Libya for, as it was simply the daily (however, recently amplified) strains and stresses of work. There was also the work on the cable (I don’t more than that… I’m not an IT man) in the Mediterranean which caused my internet to be slower than usual and frustrated me endlessly as it meant very awkward and difficult Skype conversations with my girlfriend which contained more “Uh? What?” ‘s than usual
However what made the week especially difficult was related to a topic I’ve already spoken about: Language, and the problems that can be created when not everyone speaks the same common language. Unfortunately I prefer not to go into detail simply for my own ‘protection’ (Please imagine this with air quotes for the sake of humour), but all I’ll say is I made ill-timed joke which got completely misinterpreted and ended up with me apologising profusely to someone who genuinely seemed offended.
This shouldn’t bother me, but it really did as I detest being misrepresented and misunderstood and more importantly being perceived as malicious. However this episode has taught me another thing: Be very careful with jokes. Certain types of jokes or silly comments do not cross the culture and language barrier with grace and ease. I remember once being in a Turkish restaurant in London, when the waiter asked if I enjoyed the food and I, in my usual ironic manner said “It was absolutely awful!”. The look of pure shock on the waiter’s face made it obvious he didn’t understand irony too well and I quickly had to make him realise that it was a joke and even with the help of my Turkish friend translating, he did not see the funny side of it.
I guess sometimes you need hit your head twice, though this week it could have been way more costly than some spittle in my dessert…