Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh My Ears

After My Husband and I were married, it took a couple of months for me to move away to be with him.  He was in schools, and in between a real duty station.  So, I was waited.  When the time came, I moved to Norfolk, Virginia to be with him.  While that is closer to northern VA, and not the same as the real south, it is  still in Virginia, and it wasn't so different that I was taken aback by my surroundings.
Our next big move was to Corpus Christi, Texas.  That did bring with is some serious culture shock.  We often called it Northern Mexico.  It was different.  It wasn't bad, though, at all.  It was just an adjustment for this girl who was born and raised in small, fairly homogeneous, town in Tennessee.  That area of Texas is a little strange in the culture.  Its sort of like if the south and Mexico had a baby, they would have that region.  It is a mix of the cultures and traditions, I suppose.  So, in some ways, it still felt familiar while opening me up to a lot.
We lived in TX for a few years, and finished out his tour there.  Then, after a more short stints for school, we moved to San Diego.
Talk about culture shock.  That was it.  I'm not sure that moving to a foreign land would be that much more.  It wasn't something I was prepared for, at all.  Nothing felt familiar, and people automatically pointed out how different I was the moment I opened my mouth and spoke.  I had a southern accent, and it set people off everywhere I went.  I got grilled all the time about where I was from.  Sometimes it was uncomfortable.
The crazy thing is, compared to my home town, and most of the people I know, I have very little accent.
The longer I was away, the softer it got, too.  My friends could tell when I had been around my mom, if she had been visiting, because it would flair up a little.
I began to really work on my diction, and I hoped that it was as clear as possible.  In fact, when we first moved back here, people had a hard time understanding me.  They still do occasionally.  I spoke quickly and with little affectation, making me sound different from them.  During Girl Scout Cookie training for my parents, I had one Dad who could not understand me.  I tried to speak more slowly.  I tried to speak more clearly.  I think that made it worse.  Eventually his daughter started repeating everything for him in the typical slow southern drawl and he got it.
The thing is, the longer I am here, the more I hear myself returning to that.  It is impossible not to.  That is all my ears hear.  My brain will rewire itself again and eventually I will start sounding like that.
I am already using more colloquialisms.  The other day, at the end of a phone conversation with a CA friend, I said "Well, go on then".  When you read it, it could sound hateful, but when said in the Southern way, it is simply a way to say good bye, without any hint of ill feelings.  Its just the way they talk.  I realized when she laughed that she might have thought I was being rude, but in fact, its sort of a common phrase that I have already started to use.
I hear the girls say things all the time that amaze me, and not necessarily in a good way.  In particular, I realize that The Littlest One will have a strong southern accent.  She will probably be the only native San Diegan to speak with a southern drawl.  Already, she says "byyeeee" instead of bye.
I hope to go visit San Diego this summer, if possible.  If we do, I plan on re immersing myself in the culture there.  I want to hang out with my friends, visit Balboa Park, and do a lot of the touristy things we shun when you actually live there, but most of all, I want to just listen for a while, and soak up as much of the sound of speech as possible.