There is culture shock. And then there is reverse culture shock. I notice that there is not dust on everything. I struggle to drive or judge distance when driving. Stairs are an odd thing to me. A car is an odd thing to me. And I find myself claustrophobic. I notice that all of the rooms are closed in. Everything is arranged and has its own space. I stand in a room and truly am claustrophobic. There is carpet and plush furniture and there is not trash. I drive down streets and the houses are so far apart. And they are houses. Large houses. I cannot focus on a conversation because my eyes wander to small things like flower arrangements, or how candles are arranged or words on walls. It’s ok. It’s just remembering what this culture and life was like.
I walked into the high school that I used to teach in and the students looked foreign to me. I did not recognize the style of clothes, the hair or their routines. It is a strange feeling to be a foreigner in a place that used to be so familiar. I stood in my old classroom and could still sense what it was like to teach there. But it was weird. There were my cabinets and plants and my bird on the wall and posters that I had, but it had been too long since I lived in that room. I noticed everything that was different, and everything that was the same.
It is Christmas time which means that there is hustle and bustle everywhere. I have avoided most of it. Not necessarily on purpose, but it is not part of my routine anymore. I love the Christmas lights and take joy in the small things I never really enjoyed while I was here. The longer I live a second life, the less of my first life feels normal. Living between two worlds is so difficult. There are so many conversations that feel as if I am a stranger. A lot changes in three years. It is harder to relate. My life is so different than a life here. And lives here are so different from mine.
I am calling my transition back right now more like reverse culture shock. It is difficult to put into words what the last year has been like. It has been my life. It has been my assignment. It has been where God has placed me and used me. Everyone always wants to know what it feels like to be back… and some days it is comforting, enjoyable and relaxing and other days it can be overwhelming and stressful. I am grateful that I thrive on interaction and people. Although this can be a culture shock as well. I can speak English. Which can be a shock… but this is something I will welcome.
Be blessed this Christmas! The good news is that this holiday is universal. Jesus came to this earth for every tribe, every nation, every tongue… He is transcendent. And he fits every culture. Possibly a little different, but He is one constant regardless of the culture. His purpose and life were the same. And he knows how to communicate to all. What a great gift!
For those of you who have followed Katie’s journey, her last three entries give light to the struggle here. https://theaaronfickers.wordpress.com/ Especially her Love Always Wins entry. Thank you, thank you for your prayers and support through this journey. We know that our God is greater than any pain that this world might give us.