Five years later I, an excited eight-year-old girl, boarded a school bus in New Jersey. The excitement quickly turned to fear as I heard rampant swearing in the back of the bus. I was truly shocked when the bus driver did nothing to stop the vulgarity. In my schools in Florida such behavior would have met with a bar of soap and a visit to the principal鈥檚 office. A year later, I had a "Jersey" accent, and had started swearing too.
After nine years my family then moved to a place called "a whole 鈥檔other country": Texas. I discovered that everything is bigger in Texas, from the size of a glass of ice tea to the distances on the road. My mother added barbecued brisket to the regular menu of turkey and Idaho potatoes on Monday and arroz con pollo on Tuesday.
The incredibly friendly Texans, wearing cowboy boots and going to high school football games on Friday nights, seemed a totally different breed from my friends in New Jersey. A slight drawl entered my speech.
In two years time, I found myself in the mountains of rural Bolivian. As part of a team of doctors and students researching hypertension on a group of African- Bolivian villagers, I quickly learned a new vocabulary that included medical and anthropological terms. The greatest test of my linguistic abilities came when a villager accused me of drinking blood samples in some kind of vampire-like witchcraft ritual. I had to bridge a vast cultural gulf to explain a DNA isolation and analysis protocol in Spanish to someone who had never heard of a gene m