It had been difficult at first for the settlers. Nothing grew on Arctus 3 that they were used to. They had brought seeds and starter plants from Earth to produce their own food, but none of it would grow in the acidic soil or under the glare of the red giant star at the center of that solar system. Arctus made all plant life on its now third planet appear in reds, pinks, and oranges, with magentas and deep purples making an appearance in what passed for its autumn season. The settlers resorted to eating their travel rations a few weeks more than they intended until the survey team’s scientists could analyze the local flora to determine if it would be safe for humans to consume. While it was safe, on the whole it wasn’t very palatable at first. Most vegetables had the taste and texture of cardboard or Styrofoam, at least for the first month of consumption. After then, either you got used to it, or enough of it was in you that it changed you so that it actually started to taste good. Nobody was really sure what was the truth.
The philosophers thought that it was a defense mechanism of the planet, to keep the local produce from being consumed. Who would want to stay in a place where the food was terrible? It was as if the planet was trying to keep travelers away, showing its inhospitable side. Perhaps it was like parents who downsized after children moved out, hoping that they’d never come back to stay, or even visit for very long.
But something changed after a month of eating the food that grew naturally there. It was as if the people themselves changed, transformed. Perhaps it was that they became part of the environment, so that it no longer seemed foreign, because they were no longer foreign. Return visits back to their home planets were difficult. If away from Arctus 3 for more than a week they had to undergo the acclimating process all over again.
Most settlers saw their trip to Arctus 3 as one way. Not just because of the food or the distance and cost to get there. It was a chance to start over with a clean slate. The majority had felt out of place on their home planets, so felt no need to go back. They’d shaken the dust off their feet from those who persisted with their perverse cravings for anything and everything that caused them to feel unwell in body, mind, and spirit.
Joan had come to help start up the postal system here, while Clifford was a language teacher. They’d met because of the natural overlap of their professions. Clifford often had his students practice their letter writing skills by sending letters to people within Homestead or in any of the other nearby settlements. With so many people moving here from all over the Galaxy, they all had to work hard on learning three different languages so they could make themselves understood. The founders had modeled this after the state of Israel that overcame the polyglot cacophony it experienced upon the rapid settlement of so many Jews from all over Europe after the last World War by teaching everyone a language none of them had ever used for communication before, one that had only been used for worship.
Likewise, everyone here had to learn Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic. They were allowed (and in fact encouraged) to learn at least two other languages such as English or Spanish or French. It was very common to hear people speaking blends of these languages – words, syntax, or idioms – to get across their meaning. Sometimes one language simply doesn’t have enough words to express how you feel. Sometimes the other person hasn’t learned the word you want to use. There had been an attempt to create a whole separate language to fill the communication needs of so many people from so many different places. In the end it was decided that too much time would have been wasted trying to develop it. The need for communication was immediate, and this patchwork of languages not only worked but had a sort of charm to it.