Culture Shock 101

05 August 2008

Yesterday I cried a lot. Here is the reason for my crying: it rained. Now I'm living in Ireland, so it rains a lot, without warning, intermittently throughout the day. Usually I don't mind; I actually love the rain here (though I could use some thunder on occasion). But yesterday I slept in way late, felt kinda funky, and we determined to go for a walk as a family to the shop for some milk. Thus ensued about an hour or two of temper tantrums, dirty diapers, searches for missing shoes, and time outs... until we were all finally at the door about ready to walk out when we saw it: downpour.

That was the culture straw that broke this mama camel's back. 

 I promptly turned around, went upstairs, and cried. I'm sure you're thinking that is relatively a small issue. And it was - so unbelievably small! But... I'm kinda at the end of my processing rope. We're not doing any language learning here, we're doing "culture learning". There are assignments and suggestions and discussions that come out of this culture learning period, but the level of success or completion is not a fixed variable. We're not graded, no quizzes, no certificate of completion. We just try and soak up as much as we can each day, and the next day try to maneuver life in Ireland a little better.

The mental power this takes is incalculable. We sleep nearly 10 hours every night. It takes us an hour to get ready to go anywhere - even down the street! We have to think through literally every decision or every movement over and over again. Cooking takes longer, cleaning takes longer, grocery shopping takes FOREVER! And when I do make it out of the house, praying to meet some people and have some (hopefully) intelligent conversations (I'm not as funny in "hiberno English", I've discovered), those conversations only last about 30 seconds. The need I have for interaction with people is not exactly met. I go home a little frustrated, and the next morning I get up and try again.

So about 3 months in (or in my case: exactly 3 months in), culture shock sets in. CS isn't just one event, it's a culmination. But sometimes it is one little event that makes all the others protrude on a larger scale and suddenly it seems completely overwhelming. That is where I am. Sensory overload. Emotional exhaustion. Physical weakness. Spiritually drab. Our advisor from prefield training emailed me straight away with two crisp and clear points: It isn't terminal, and it doesn't last forever. Very good to know!

Last night I could feel it getting a little better, especially after processing all of this with another new-to-the-field friend, but I know this funk might last a little bit. I'm hoping that at least being aware of it will help me handle it better. And I'm praying that in the midst of it, God will meet me someplace in the form of a new Irish acquaintance, or a tiny place to serve, or in a crowded airport with all the Irish missionaries 24 hours from now... maybe it will endear me to our coworkers here, who at times seem so far away... maybe I'll lose the will to eat and lose 10 pounds.

 See, I'm already looking on the bright side!

1 comment:

  1. Sending many hugs and much love from Kansas!

    Tracy Crosley