Foreign Fears

When Luka and I were engaged and people began to find out that I was moving to Slovenia, I got many reactions. The most common was, “I could never do that! You’re crazy/brave/have guts to leave your friends and family and go to a foreign country. At the time I really didn’t feel like that made me at all brave. First of all, I loved Luka and being with him was my #1 priority, be it in California or Slovenia or the Sahara. Our long distance relationship had been hard enough and I was ready for it to be over. But even this aside, I had always loved to travel. When I was about 16 years old I had said that “I would love to travel Europe and maybe even live there for a year.” I was about to get that wish! I loved my family, but we had all been adventurers and leaving them to travel the world with the love of my life didn’t seem like a devastating sacrifice. Slovenia was different, but it wasn’t third world different. In some ways they were more advanced than America so I felt like there wasn’t going to be any culture shock.

In many ways, there wasn’t any huge adjustments, aside from the weather. Not for the first year anyway. Then they slowly crept in. I think for the first year it was really more like a long romantic vacation for me. Even though we worked and had responsibilities and such, it was all so new. The first big challenge was the most obvious: the language. What a language. Slovene doesn’t sound like anything we hear in America. It’s nothing like anything I had ever heard before. If someone asked me, “What does it sound like?” I would respond, “Something like Russian, German, and Italian all together, but none of those things individually.” It took me a year before I could go to the grocery store by myself. The funny thing is that in Ljubljana, the capital, most people speak enough English so that you could live here forever and never really have to learn the language. However, I was petrified whenever someone looked at me and a jumble of sounds came out of their mouth. Plus, I couldn’t understand any labels so unless it was obvious I spent hours looking at german labels for something that resembled English.

Another massive fear, if not the worst, was the idea of giving birth in a foreign country. This was, at the time of me moving to Slovenia, unthinkable. When we had decided to live in Slovenia after getting married, our decision was that we would love in Slovenia for one year and then reevaluate our life and decide to stay longer or make plans to move to California. We didn’t have plans to have kids right away so I didn’t seriously give it much thought. When people did ask me about it, my thought was, I would never give birth in a foreign country, I would go back to California. I was afraid of so many things, but mainly the unfamiliarity and, of course, the language barrier. I couldn’t bear the idea of going through the most intense experience of my life and then not understanding what the doctors and nurses around me were saying. However, when the occasion did arise I found myself having to make that very decision. It wasn’t so easy either. In the end, I chose to give birth in Slovenia for various reasons. Even though I had wanted a midwife that spoke English, the only one there at the time did not. And you know what? Everything turned out just fine. And I will do it again.

My next biggest fear, and the one I had been putting off until today, was going to the dentist. I’m terrified enough of going to the dentist, but double that fear when we’re talking about going to one in a foreign country. First, Slovenes don’t generally have nice teeth. I think Americans are obsessed with perfect teeth and it’s important to us. Then I come here, or almost anywhere else in the world, and look around and think, why would I want any of your dentists to touch my teeth?!?! What if they totally screw my teeth forever?! I haven’t been to a dentist in more than 10 years. I knew I needed to go, bad, but I just couldn’t get over the dread. About a year ago I made a shocking discovery. I had a rather decent size hole in my back molar. The discovery aged me a good 5 years. Mostly because I suddenly realized that I would have to go to a dentist. However, the tooth wasn’t hurting me…really. So I procrastinated. I can’t even believe it, but that is the power of fear. It keeps you locked in and shackled to an idea. Then a few days ago, it started to hurt. A remarkably inconvenient time, but then again it was never going to be convenient. I had massive anxiety for three days until today I eventually had to go. I cried about 5 times today just coping with the idea of going this afternoon.

We walked right in, no wait, sat down and explained the situation. The dentist was perfectly lovely and said she thought the tooth could be saved. She didn’t speak English, but Luka was there in the beginning to make sure there were no communication barriers. She didn’t want to give me the anesthesia because I am pregnant so it meant drilling the tooth without painkillers. More terror. She promised to be careful and go as gently as she could. As she drilled away sometimes it hurt, sometimes it didn’t. Whenever I winced she stopped or paused. The tissue I was clenching in my hand quickly became damp. Sweat was pouring down my back. I don’t think I ever sweat that much on my hardest workout in the gym. It was truly nerve wracking. At one point when I rinsed, I felt with my tongue an enormous hole where the surface of my tooth used to be. Halfway through she showed me that she was still cleaning out stuff that had been packed in there for who-knows-how-long. After about 45 minutes, she finished. I paid a whole 30€ and have a follow up appointment when we get back from America after Christmas.

After it was all done and said, I was so relieved that my tooth was mended. I wouldn’t have to stress about it anymore. I can start eating food on that side again for the first time in a long time. I was amazed that it was so easy when it was all done and said. Yes, the drilling without anesthesia was horrible, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’d been through. And for 30€ and no wait I can gladly go get the rest of my teeth taken care of before they get gaping holes too. The funny thing about fear is that when we actually face it, it tends to melt away from our imagination in the clarity of reality.