Starreader dream last night.
Myself (cast for this dream as a young cis woman, indeterminate age, skinny with darker hair, skin more evenly tanned from a lifetime of winters and summers spent outdoors) and the family (a bunch of people I have not met in real life; a few were parts of the tribe we weren't related to) were walking into a city from the outskirts. It had been a long trip; we usually lived many hundreds of kilometers away in the wilderness.
As we got further into town proper, we were walking along a riverside waterfront. Across the river, the city there was strange and unfamiliar-looking, with architectural styles quite unlike the local standard and many bright colors on the buildings. The river marked a boundary between two countries; only passing familiarity and a few architectural coincidences made our side seem particularly comprehensible. We spoke the local language, albeit somewhat poorly -- people sometimes didn't understand what we'd said, and it was difficult to keep up with them if they talked at length.
For comfort, we spoke Senyalesh to one another, but the father of the kids I was looking after insisted we practice the local language to fit in. I didn't know about how well that would work, spotting the looks in the eyes of those we interacted with, but we all tried it. You listen to your elders.
The city's architecture and culture were clearly not any found on waking-Earth, but the overall influence of something a bit like Western capitalism had made itself known (choices of building materials as a reflection of the age of the buildings, some degree of standardization). On our side of the river, something like a blend of Northern European and Korean sensibilities, through the eyes of international modernist architecture and more interested in sprawling mall-complexes connected by skybridge than vertical skyscrapers. Lots of pedestrian-only roads.
Across the river, I almost want to describe the influences as a strange blend of contemporary Islamic (albeit lacking the specific religious elements of same), Soviet Constructivist and neoclassical. Not many skyscrapers there either, but quite a few more large, hulking multiplex buildings. I recall knowing that the border was fairly open, and customs checkpoints allowed pedestrian foot access across the many bridges -- the two countries were clearly on somewhat good terms.
Most of the population were of a different ethnic group than ourselves; the city's population seemed to have two or three core groups and then a smattering of minorities, none very large. They never corresponded precisely to any real-world group, though humans varied in the same ways as they do in the waking world and one wouldn't be terribly surprised by the features and modes of dress evident.
At one point I seperated off from the family, trying to go find a washroom. A lower-end restaurant didn't mind letting me in to do that, but the process turned out to be pretty complex. Since we were entering a downtown commercial area, a lot of the washrooms had keys, and since the area was full of buildings and lots that blend into one another, I overstimated how big the space was and immediately got lost. I hadn't used a key like these ones before, but it seemed intuitive enough -- the trick was figuring out what door to use! I could only just read the signs enough to get a very basic sense, and wandered around for a bit before I finally got it. Got a lot of stares wandering around like that, only just barely able to explain in the simplest terms what I was looking for, and there was more than a little dismissal of me as a backward outsider, though it scarcely registered as something worth internalizing yet.
I was more than a little dismayed that, of the two or three written languages I saw in the city, none of them resembled Senyalesh writing. A sideways, left-to-right language was weird in my eyes, though I'd learned the alphabet well enough to slowly sound out a word. The other two languages, I couldn't even figure out which direction they ran or what sounds their letters stood for, or even if they *were* letters and not something else (Senyalesh, after all, has ideograms, syllables and freestanding letters in one writing system). Eventually, my fascination with my surroundings began to be outweighed by the growing sensation that something was wrong.
I'd wandered off in a haze after finding the washroom, so attentive to my surroundings I no longer knew where my family was, or indeed where I might go looking for them. I tried retracing my footsteps, but the effort was soon overwhelming. The city became a maze full of strange sights, loud sounds, and too many people; I couldn't find my way back to anyplace that looked familiar enough to orient from. I didn't want to panic, had never panicked before after getting lost in the woods as a child, always found my way back eventually...
But those were familiar surroundings. The forests of my home I knew; forests elsewhere were unknown as yet but followed the same basic rules as forests anywhere. This...this was something altogether alien, and I sank into a sitting position sullenly, folding my knees up huddling over, afraid. What had I done?
Starreader dream last night.