Floating

The writing continues, and for the next short while (I hope it’s short, anyway) it may be quite rambly, at times resembling a journal. I won’t apologize, because I think every writer needs these moments. This is my reverse culture shock honesty…enjoy!

Riverfront

Phnom Penh Riverfront

I’ve been stateside now for exactly three weeks. I’m still at my parents’ home, and trudging through the job-searching process. I’m living between my hometown and the city where I studied, preparing to move back, but not quite there yet. I’d call this a “transition phase”, only I don’t quite know what I’m transitioning into, so I feel like I’m floating.

People keep telling me, “Welcome home.” I say, “Thank you.” I don’t say, “It’s good to be back”, because I’m still at war with the reality of being back, overwhelmed and confused. I’m unsure how to apply what I learned, who I became, how I changed, to a culture that doesn’t understand what I did, why I did it.

Vending Greens

Vending Greens

I refuse to write, “I wish I was there! I’m jealous.” Each time I see a happy photo of my Bangkokian friends. The only way to get through this floatation phase is to focus on the now, not the wonderful past.

Love the tones

Love the tones

One recurring issue is that as frustrating as life could be in Bangkok, I had the very clear knowledge that I had chosen this way of life. So the things I did without, I am not thrilled to have again. Yes, I went without hot water to wash my dishes with for 9 months. And do you know? I didn’t get sick. It’s hard to be ecstatic to have something returned, when you’d grown so comfortable without it.

Light

Light

What am I grateful for, though? I’m grateful for unlimited texting. And yesterday I was grateful for a stove. And the day before that I was grateful not to miss another family event, and helped celebrate the impending arrival of another niece.

I’m learning to be grateful, here and now. I resent people assuming I am grateful because it was so hard. It was hard. It was harsh and at times it felt brutal, but it was incredible. To be overly grateful for hot water, and cheese, and a kitchen and zero traffic…it still seems like I’m cheating on my ability to do without.

Changing colors

Changing colors

Does this make any sense?

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3 thoughts on “Floating

  1. It makes perfect sense. You have experienced something outside the realm of most of the folks “back here”. They didn’t sense the call or make the choice you did for the reasons you did. You took up the challenge to follow God somewhere foreign to them.
    You came to appreciate another culture from up close. Your core values were exposed, and may have been refined, challenged, changed, or affirmed. You left behind here a lot of stuff of secondary or minimal importance such as mere comforts or the day-to-day trappings of your first culture.
    You got to test, in a very real way, what those things meant to you, and the reverse culture shock is causing you to realize how little you value those things. The efforts of folks to make small talk, trying to empathize without really knowing the details, is missing the mark, and you are very aware of this.. Try thinking of the things you now miss from “over there”, and why, and see if you can explain what one/each of these mean to you. Then you can have a reply for those awkward suppositions. And/or, try communicating what you are glad to have back, like family events shared, and why.
    Remember, folks aren’t trying to be annoying. They are trying to connect from their own point of view. You’ve experienced a significant change in your point of view. Part of reverse culture shock is realizing you don’t see eye to eye the same way you used to. Take a deep breath, and tell yourself the difference is o.k.. You will discover new things or discover anew former things you have in common with “the folks back home”.

    • Thank you so much for your insight, Diane! While a lot of what you wrote is familiar to me, I often need reminders and to have so much truth spilled onto one page is absolutely wonderful.

      Glad to know I have long-term family friends watching my back and feeding into my life now 🙂

  2. I have not gone oversees, but have experienced life through a whole new set of lenses having been immersed in a different culture – African American- and a different way of life in the inner city culture. Both different (inner city is mix of several cultures operating th same way due to thier socio economical status), completely different from the way I grew up. It is hard. When I moved out of he inner city for awhile, I did experience culture shock–thankfully i was attending a anthropology class at the time and the professor really helped me work through it. One of the hardest times. I wanted to just stay in bed. Give yourself sometime and don’t expect that others who have not ever experienced any thing outside off indeed culture will understand – they won’t, and ofen can’t. It’s really difficult to conversation because of the paternalistic view many Americans have towards others. Patience and knowing when to stop in a conversation that’s going nowhere.

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