One thing that has really tested my patience here in Moldova is the differing norms on privacy and relationship building. At home and in Mexico locked doors are not uncommon. You would not offend someone if you did lock yourself in somewhere. It is simply a sign that you want to be left alone, are busy, or are tired. Here a locked door symbolizes that something is wrong with you or that you are doing something suspect. Since birth I have been programmed to lock doors to and from my house, when I go to my bedroom, the bathroom, get in the car, etc. It is the way I was raised. Living in Chicago taught me to do that with an even more conscious effort. I do not know if it is this fear that a robber, like the one from the Brinks home security commercials, will break into my house but it may just be the information we receive through the news that instills a fear in us to lock everything. I have always practiced this security habit and it has become hard to change.
My privacy is the most important thing to me as far as psyche and comfort goes. I cannot say this is a part of American culture but it resonates with me to be left alone for extended periods of time. I just enjoy the tranquility of being on my own to relax, read, exercise, and work uninterrupted. I have been asked to keep my door open at home and at work for visitors to come in as they please. If the door has been locked or closed when a visitor tries to enter, I am either greeted with a weird stare or anger as to why my door was shut. Believe me, there is no ace up my sleeve or master plan unfolding. It is just habit and comfort. Most often I am happy to have visitors break up the monotony of the day but come too often and I start to feel stressed and pressured. I like having my space. Not because I do not like certain people, but because I like feeling independent, productive, and concentrated.
I think the stress I feel comes from my uncertainty or inability to fulfill the role that others may have designed for me. I do not like letting people down or creating bad relationships; so at the outset of most relationships I compromise myself in order to please others and establish a good base. This gets me into worse situations. By not being more assertive or apathetic people think I will always have excessive amounts of free time and energy to fulfill their wants or desires. The problem becomes that I overcompensate early on and later I push people away so that I not get too close.
It takes time for people to grow on me. I like to be nice, social, and respectful towards my peers but I require time to evaluate the other person and determine if they are someone I can trust, respect, and enjoy being around in return. If that is not the case I tend to phase the person out or avoid them completely. This is not healthy and I know it. Point being is that my relationships move slow and real relationships take time and understanding.
The hardest part for me is sharing all of this with my Moldovan counterparts and trying not to offend them in the process. Often there is a disconnect in what I say and what I mean. When that disconnect is misinterpreted it tends to give people the wrong message and creates resentment towards me. Confused and not being able to find the words, I let it go. This does not help matters. Sometimes I do not want to drop all of my work and go for a walk. Other times I do not have 20 minutes to chat. It is not that I do not care, it is that everything must move at a certain pace for me to feel at ease. When I feel forced or pressured I begin to fluster.
In order to solve this problem I need to begin expressing who I am to more people candidly and not be afraid of the consequences. If they cannot accept this immediately then we probably would not end up being friends anyways. I need to mention that during work hours I am normally busy. If my door is closed it is because I am tired or occupied. To become friends, we need to take it slow and get to know each other before I overcommit to making a thousand plans. These are all things I am learning on daily basis and trying to improve upon. Not just for my service in Moldova but for life. I would like to become a more open person, I only ask to be respected and given time and space in exchange.