I’m set to house/cat-sit for a friend in Santa Fe for 2 weeks. The timing was good, as my sweetie is gallivanting in foreign parts with other iSchoolers and I have business to take care of in the region. I can spend some time on portfolio development and one of the couple lit reviews I’ve thought about, while doing her a good turn and handling some logistics of my own.

But the logistics of the arrangement itself have brought some challenges. I would describe my friend as a ‘high-context’ person. Knowing her is a holistic process, quite a bit more complex than my usual experience of someone. She’s done a lot of different things, all of them passionately, and that breadth of intense experience feeds into my interactions with her, I think. It’s not a simple thing to exchange messages, speak and respond, and reach shared understanding. In writing, on the phone, or in person, it’s a pretty rambly process of association and elaboration on multiple levels at once. It’s a worthwhile challenge, but definitely a challenge for a more linear thinker like me.

For example, she has provided me the address of her home exactly once, in the middle of a phone conversation, when I specifically asked. I think I remember it correctly, but I’m not too sure, and that’s relatively important information. She has provided much MORE information than that, over a couple hours or more on the phone and several successive SMS text messages sent as she waited for a connecting flight to depart. I have a full explanation of the route and landmarks, advice on direction and driving speed, a description of the sign that hangs over her parking place, and the location where the front door key is stashed. But I don’t have written confirmation of the actual address anywhere.

She says she’s left pages detailing the cat’s needs, plant watering, and whatever else I’ll need to know to manage the household, so that’s good. I just need to get there. I could have figured out the route and much of the rest just based on that one factual statement of the address. Google maps knows where the address I remember is, anyhow. I can figure it out from that starting point. But I wouldn’t have the full experience of what it will mean to her to have me visiting and occupying her space — occupying her place in the world to some extent, I would even say — without the whole backstory that she’s shared. I *think* that’s why she has communicated it in the way she has, but I’m deducing that meaning, and I may be off base. Parsing context is hard!