When I listen to Polish, different things happen to me than when I listen to other languages. I get a sense of warmth, like a cuddly feeling. And sometimes I do get a sense that maybe I am allowed to play and to be happy.

Russian has maybe more a sense of identity. There is a deep sense of resonance and belonging, as if I am in some free to be myself. I think this must be because I was older—the Polish girls who loved me died before I was five. I experienced adolescence and all those early phases of trying to sort out who you are among Nata’s Russian friends.

I’ve been here thinking that some of what the other foreign teachers feel in being here in Country X is what I feel all the time: that sense of sending a signal out into the world and not getting any answer, or getting the wrong answer. The feeling of not fitting, of being out-of-place—not unwanted, but still uncomfortable, like you are a wearing a sweater too tight in the arms. That is how I feel. It is how some of them feel or have felt here in Country X.

The place where I was loved and appreciated and wanted and nurtured was a brothel. That little tiny, much-less-than-a village group of people was my home. The culture that developed in that group of girls and young women is the culture where I felt at home. They were much more my family than my own family, just because they were sort of normal for the most part. They weren’t callous.

Anyway, I’m thinking about this. It’s part of what I need to process, and it’s just in there in my head, being considered.

I feel like such an outsider in this group because their shared experience is new for them, but it is how I’ve felt for 30 years.