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life is like a video game…

December 9, 2010

…it’s time to take it to the next level!

True story: a lifetime ago, my dear friend Elizabeth and I went to watch a high school student-written/directed/acted play that included almost that exact sentence above. As someone’s actual line.

Anyway. I was thinking the other day that there are several video/computer games that would serve as apt metaphors for my life over here, and I think they’re worth sharing. Ready? Here we go.

This is a pretty tired metaphor for traffic in certain parts of the developing world, but I’m afraid there’s just no other way to describe what it’s like to cross the street on a daily basis. And traffic is relatively mild over here compared to, say, Egypt. Or even Lebanon or Morocco. (The last is the only one I have personal experience with, of course; the other two are just what I’m told.) Still, I regularly cross multi-lane roads that don’t actually have any lane markings or crosswalks or…rules. I just wait for an opening, cross one “lane,” wait again, cross again…continue until I make it to the other side. It’s all about the timing, baby. Which I can’t exactly claim to have gotten down pat. At least once a week, I do a little fake-out and scurry back because the oncoming car shows no sign of slowing down, even though I am clearly within sight. Then everyone laughs at me.

I’d say this game pretty closely describes what it feels like to navigate the culture over here. Add to the fact that I never exactly understood the rules/point of this game, and therefore just randomly clicked things as fast as I could until I exploded (average time spent per round: five seconds), and it’s an even more accurate description. I have no idea what’s going on, I stumble around, I do everything wrong, and then I explode into a flaming ball of shame/ruined reputation/unintentional rudeness. Rinse and repeat.

This is a language thing. I probably should’ve prefaced this whole post by explaining that I am absolutely awful at all video/computer games. No skills whatsoever–ask anyone. So dealing with Arabic here is a lot like my average game of Tetris. When all the pieces are fitting together and I’m rolling along at a good pace, I get an immense feeling of satisfaction. Conversation makes sense. I am communicating my needs. Even beyond that, I am joking, telling stories, arguing. Click, click, click, it’s a neat little puzzle and it makes my heart happy. Then things speed up a bit and suddenly nothing fits–everything’s a jumbled mess! I sound like an alien toddler! Plus, I don’t understand what anyone is saying! Game over!

Oregon Trail
This is my whole life here, guys–I’m blazing my way through a wild frontier. I am a pioneer woman! Watch me flush my toilet with a bucket, hang my clothes on a line, scavenge for food (no I did not just eat packaged cookies for lunch), weave my way through packs of wild, leering creatures (aka shebab), and heat my room with an open flame. Well, a portable gas heater. Basically the same thing. Good thing I never quite figured this game out either and always lost my whole family to dysentery about a week into my journey, right? Actually, the only thing I can vividly remember about this game was the funeral song that played when your wife/children died. Dun, dun, duh dun…

So there you go. I’m sure there are some other great game metaphors, but those are off the top of my head. On the plus side, I’m pretty sure my rate of success in real life is a LOT better than my rate of success at the actual games. Which is why I’ve long since quit playing any/all video games, but I persist in figuring out how to live here and do it right. The occasional speeding car, land mine, stressful acceleration of Russian folk music, and bout of dysentery can’t stop me…so pretty much nothing can.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Elizabeth permalink
    December 10, 2010 1:12 am

    I am so glad you posted this! Because I think about that show frequently..well not frequently, but every so often, and I’m glad you do as well. Sometimes I just were there were an undo button in life.
    Also, Oregon Trail was an amazing game and everyone did always die, especially fording the river – I always tried to ford that dang river! Also I am an obsessive minesweeper player and often play while doing lots of other things and not really paying attention.
    Final note, I am in Boston right now and it’s super cold and I’ve been wearing my neck tube a lot and very seriously believe that people have started glaring at me instead of responding to my friendly smiles because they think it’s a Muslim head scarf. It’s pretty upsetting actually. On the plus side, my ears are warm!

    • December 11, 2010 5:54 pm

      yesss. i knew it. you should wear your tube everyday as a social experiment. hahaha. also: “omg, lol, rotfl!” or whatever the lyrics were.

  2. Daniel P permalink
    December 10, 2010 6:47 am

    i can’t tell if you’re being facetious about the dysentery or not.

    • December 11, 2010 5:55 pm

      though i know several people who have gotten amoebic dysentery here, i have not yet joined their ranks.

  3. Elliott Kim permalink
    December 11, 2010 4:26 am

    Do you remember when we were in Japan at that arcade and you played that stupid Japanese game that none of us understood, died in 5 seconds, I give you another 100 yen coin and you proceed to play that stupid game again even though none of us understood it and again die in 5 seconds, so I give you a last 100 yen coin and you played tetris.

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