This is reposted from my old blog. I’ve imported the whole post, comments and all, into a single space here. I’ve listed it here under its original date.
It’s Official, I’m an Alien
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I am now officially an alien. I even have a license, issued by the China government, to prove it. It is my “Alien Employment License.” As an avid reader and writer of all speculative genres (novels, plays, poetry), I suppose I should be thrilled. Mostly, though, I am just wondering why the word “alien” has an impact that is so completely different than that of “foreigner.”
The little dictionary built into my computer offers these definitions
foreigner |ˈfôrənər; ˈfär-|
(noun) a person born in or coming from a country other than one’s own.
• informal a person not belonging to a particular place or group; a stranger or outsider.
Mostly innocuous, I guess. Let’s see the comparison
alien |ˈālyən; ˈālēən|
(adjective) belonging to a foreign country or nation.
• unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful : bossing anyone around was alien to him | they found the world of adult education a little alien.
• [ attrib. ] relating to or denoting beings supposedly from other worlds; extraterrestrial : an alien spacecraft.
• (of a plant or animal species) introduced from another country and later naturalized.
(noun)a foreigner, esp. one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living : an illegal alien.
• a hypothetical or fictional being from another world.
• a plant or animal species originally introduced from another country and later naturalized.
Funny how the two words can be so similar, and yet not quite the same. That little subdefinition in the “alien” listing’s inclusion of words like “disturbing” and “distasteful” seems to make all the difference.
Strangely enough, I don’t feel any more alien here than I do anywhere else in the world, even on the days when I am starkly aware that I am a foreigner. There has always been something in my experience of life that hinted to me that I was an alien, wherever I might find myself. I guess I should be grateful to the China government for officially acknowledging the condition, after all these years.
© 2009 Shelly Bryant
I just lost my little friend, Rigley, this week, making me feel all the more alien in this world. She was a good girl, and will be greatly missed by me and everyone in my family.