Thursday, August 28, 2014

Culture Shock 101

I walk along just looking. The pots and pans, plush towels and soft sheets are everywhere and a rainbow of colors line the walls everywhere I turn. Slowly the walls start to close in on me, the walls lined with their rainbow of colors smile down at me, looming over me, shelves with their sparkling wares screamed "buy me", my heart started to race, my face goes pale, tears blurred my vision. Closer they come and my vision becomes darker. Suddenly firm and gentle hands grip my shoulders, my mom pulls me into a hug and I blink hard to not let the tears fall. I cling to her as she whispers, "its ok, I understand, we can leave if we need to." I hugged her back and wiped my eyes, I stared harder at the walls as if to push them back where they belong and I say, "no, I can do this."  

Culture shock is  defined as the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life.

Its been three months today since we have been back. I haven't been able to write simply because I didn't know what to say. I had too much emotion and not enough words. But today I think I am able to put my emotion into a few words.
My personal feelings of disorientation came at me from all sides the second the plane touched down and we walked into the Miami airport. The smell was different... bleached and clean and it was so bright! The kids hit culture shock when we strapped them into their 5 point harness car seats for 5 hours. My husband embraced it all, he drove the car like a pro on the 6 lane highway out of Miami. 

Less then 24 hours after we had landed we walked into Walmart...we walked like we were in slow motion, staring with eyes wide and mouths open. The lights were bright and there was so much space. Now I had been planning this trip to Walmart for three years, I couldn't wait! I thought I remembered what it all looked like and how to shop in the states. Boy, was I wrong. I set out to find the 6 things we needed for dinner and breakfast the next morning. Jon and I split the list to save time. I only manged to get yogurt cause I stood looking at all the choices for 10 min! People were looking at me and saying "excuse me" trying to get their own stuff. I finally just grabbed some and ran away. Jon, meanwhile, had found the rest of what we needed and took the kids down the cereal isle to count the different kinds of Cheerios. He did all that while I was just trying to pick out yogurt! This was only in the first 24 hours and I knew I would face much more.

Little things started to stick out to me that the kids noticed, they noticed that there weren't any guards in front of every store. They freaked out when it started to rain, we almost never travel in the rain. The foods were different, what people once or twice a week here, we eat once a year when it comes in season. They are adjusting very well, everything is new and exciting and they are getting use to all the traveling and new people. It been awesome to see my kids interact and share what they like and miss about PY. 

Days turned into weeks, I started to drive again after 3 years, it was like learning all over again. Hands at 10 and 2 the whole time and I hugged the white line. I consistently go 10 to 15 under the speed limit. Shopping got better, I forced my self to go out to the dollar store, go to the post office. I realized that I use to be the person who wouldn't talk to the people who worked at the store, now I don't care and I ask questions. I have embraced being able to speak in my heart language to express everything I want to without fumbling for words.
Slowly my thinking/remembering where I was changed. I talked a little louder to my kids in the store, I managed to greet people at church without trying to kiss both cheeks, I stopped saying "excuse me" to enter and leave a conversation, we have had to learn to be on time and I freak out less about carrying enough water and snacks when we travel. We still take way to long when we leave someones house after dinner and its weird to say goodbye at the door. So many cultural things we had adjusted to and were part of the norm, suddenly weren't normal. 

So, here I am, driving, talking, thinking, relating and enjoying the things I've missed for the last three years. I probably sleep more than I should, I defiantly eat more cheddar cheese than I should but over all I think the crazy culture shock is gone. More how the Lord is growing me in another post. Meanwhile, here just a few pictures...

Playing tent in Grandma and Grandpas back yard

Big bowls of ice cream! 

Feeding the deer at the zoo!

Enjoying the views!