My mother was born in Panama and lived there most of her life. She moved to New Orleans right before I was born (in New Orleans) and stayed up until I was 12. That's when she got fed up with the United States and moved back. She didn't tell my brother and I that she planned to move back; she told us we were going there for the summer. But when summer ended she enrolled us in a Panamanian school, where English was taught as a foreign language. I was teased for being "a gringo" and did poorly in every class except the foreign language class.
I hated my mother then. And it dawned on me that it wasn't the first time she'd forced me to deal with a language barrier.
When I was first born she spoke to me only in Spanish. And shortly after I was born she hired a Spanish-speaking maid. All day long, the only thing I heard was Spanish, so that's what I learned to speak. My dad was worried that I wasn't going to be ready for school. He kept insisting that my mom teach me English, but she refused. I don't remember how I learned English, but I do remember that I had trouble in school from an early age,and was always behind my classmates in every subject.
I hated that too. But what could I do about it?
Now I don't hate those experiences; I cherish them. Feeling like an "outcast" made me trust in my own perspective. Learning another language taught me how much our perspective is shaped (and limited) by the words we use to describe things and events. Living in another culture also expanded my awareness. Yeah, all those things I hated turned out to be valuable. Who'd have guessed?
Weird how that works.
At first, challenges foist upon you seem unfair, but later you find out they're actually special treasures. Maybe that's why we should judge people and events so quickly. We're not as adept at knowing what's going to be good for us as we think we are.
And Panama, the country that I used to think was a third-world junkyard, turns out to be a booming economic juggernaut.