You don’t know what you don’t know: The fine art of asking questions
By Karla Freeman
My questions change daily.
Before moving to Cuenca, I lived in Buenos Aires and I had very different sets of questions.
Who were the good tango teachers? Where could I see the best traditional tango. What kind of shoes should I wear? What do women do when they want to get asked to dance? Three years later, I was asking how do I enter a tango contest? (Well, not really.)
What happened recently showed me I didn’t know how to order coffee in a new cafe. I asked for coffee with milk and the English-speaking owner of a new restaurant proudly brought me a lovely latte. Surprised, I said, “But I ordered coffee with milk.” And, just as surprised, he said, “But you should say coffee Americano with milk.”
Since I have Ecuadorian friends, they help a lot with answers to my questions. I wanted to go to a doctor for a check up and I did not want an orthodox medical person. I asked a Cuencana friend and now I have a new doctor who combines naturopathy, homeopathy and Western medicine.
Just the other day, my 4-year-old friend Dimi said he wanted to go fishing. We have a trip planned with his mother, Tanya, and possibly the one-year-old twin girls. It was easy to locate a well-stocked fishing hole because I ran into a friend who knew the perfect place, 20 minute and a $10 taxi ride away, where they give you fishing poles and you can keep the trout you catch.
Maybe it’s obvious, but it keeps surprising me that I don’t know things I should. For example, once you settle the visa question and have your residency, questions like how long I can be out of the country and, do I want to pursue citizenship, keep me on my toes … and asking more questions.
Caveat: Be aware that gringos who answer your questions can be, and frequently are, wrong. For answers to visa-related questions, I’ve learned to go to the immigration office.
Gringo e-letters and websites have lots of information and every day questions pop up that I may not even realize are questions. Where to do buy pickles, how to you fix the tires on your bicycle, when is it good time to visit the coast and where can you stay. Does someone want to share a ride, be a language partner, go fishing?
If you want to try a fun way to ask questions, here are four tips I offer from experience:
- Ask yourself a question and give yourself a day to figure it out on your own. If you don’t come up with an answer, ask around the next day.
- Do something new outside your comfort zone. It raises your energy level and opens up the creative part of your brain that solves problems in a new, less stressful way.
- Turn your intuition loose. That thought you push away as being silly may offer valuable insight and information.
- Be grateful all day for your life as an expat. And why not? Gratefulness increases the hormone that makes you more relaxed and happy.
And why not live an extraordinary life? Good question, right?
Karla Freeman, expat, traveler, tango dancer, writer, currently lives in Cuenca and is the author of Creating Magic in Midlife: 101 Questions and Answers to Reinvent Your Work, Relationships and Life! Available on Amazon Kindle and at Carolina bookstore on Calle Hermano Miguel in Cuenca.