Crazy Lady

Growing up on the mission field I knew many first year missionaries. One in particular that I remember meeting when I was really young. I remember that she cried about ants. There were ants in the kitchen and this made her cry. I thought this odd. Ants are everywhere. Every kitchen is crawling with ants. Since I only knew Venezuela that was a fact for me. My young mind didn't comprehend that where she came from, kitchens didn't have ants.

I thought she was crazy. Who cries about ants?

Now I realize she wasn't crying about ants. Not really. She was going through culture shock and it just so happened that on that particular day the ants were getting on her last nerve.
No, she wasn't crying about ants. She was crying because she was lonely, homesick, confused, scared. Maybe she was crying because she was convinced that under all the intense heat her brain had actually turned to mush. She may have been crying because some days breathing felt like a chore and that's a scary feeling. She wasn't crying about ants. I'm sorry I assumed she was crazy, I didn't know any better, but looking back I wish I had helped her kill some of those ants.

I am now the "crazy lady." Just yesterday I cried....about ants. It was one of those Bad Days where this new city and I were not getting along very well. It has nothing to do with city and everything to do with me. I've gone through it before and I'll do it again. It passes, things become normal and everyone survives.
My first and worst to date experience with culture shock was living in the USA while going to college. It was horrible and I'm surprised I have any friends left from that year.

In order to deal with this culture shock I've adjusted a few things, simplified and made changes.

1. I will take a nap every day. I call them my "anti-meltdown naps" This means no exercising for the time being.
2. I will hire someone to clean my kitchen every day of the week. It's not very expensive here and worth every single penny.
3. I will go to bed early.

All you ex-pats out there that read my blog, I'm curious, what have you done in the past that has helped with your transition into a new culture?

(Because this city we are in is not very's like a hybrid culture. A mixture of everything. Kind of like an MK. I think I'm going to like it here.)


Unknown said...

I have a pretty simple plan for culture stock. I just stay in New Hampshire. ;)

Jackie said...

Oh Erik, my culture shock in New Hampshire is the worst. It's why I didn't blog for a year while there. I didn't want to scare people.

Ian & Thalita said...

Hi Jackie. Thalita asked me to read this post. Both of us have been there (twice, in my case). As you have too. The first and most important step is, as you know, realizing that the problem is not where you are, but culture shock. So my sincere and warm congratulations on that! :)
As to how to accelerate the process of growing out of that sadness, my strong recommendation would be to put down personal roots. The greater the personal stake you have in a place, the less alien it is and the less fractured it makes you feel. Until finally it feels like home, not because of the place, but because of the people you have come to love.

Laine said...

I've never experienced major culture shock, just little bits. I lived in Puerto Rico from 2 1/2 until almost 6. I do remember being scared when I got back to the USA because it was very different. (Moved from Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C.) I was little though and adjusted fast, but I do remember being afraid. And nobody ate ants in D.C...I couldn't understand that at that age, lol. =)

In other areas of "culture shock", in a way, that is how I felt when my husband became a pastor almost two years ago. It was hard. I'll just be honest. I had been the "youth pastors" wife at other churches for many years and now it was really different. I had bouts with depression, struggling with how I was to be "the" pastors wife. But with my husbands encouragement that I was the pastors wife God wanted there, just how I was, and that I didn't need to change to my idea of what a pastors wife should be. That and God's word and prayer gradually changed me and gave me the freedom to just be myself in this new position. Yes, I've changed, but in God's way and not in a false "putting on a pastor's wife face and act" way.

I'll be praying for you Jackie. Thanks for being so open on this subject. I appreciate it more than you know.

Maybe one day when you come on furlough you can come to our church! =) We met as girls many years ago at IBC in Clinton, MD though.

Hope you have a great day! Sorry for writing a novel!

~Karen_ said...

I'm with you on taking a nap! The first year we were in Odessa, Ukraine, I napped everyday when we got home from language school. I homeschooled in the morning, the kids and I would go to the school, they would have Russian class and I would have Russian also, then we would go home.

Between learning the language, dealing with getting back and forth from the school, the weather, and then the fact that the electricity would be off when we would get home, I NEEDED a nap!

Oh, household help is extremely helpful! Our help also cooked, so I would get home on Mondays and Thursdays with a meal waiting.

Praying for you!

marion said...

Well - ants ARE annoying.
Solution: get a pet anteater !

First of all location location .. where you live doesn't lend itself to meeting folk and neighbours etc unless you want a ton or two of cigarettes. I def know things will be easier when you move.
Also this town IS different and is multi cultural but only really in the centre - and almost everybody else around is 100% Paraguayan with the tea and sitting around chatting and life is the same in a small barrio as it is in any town.
I lived in a typical barrio for my first 10 years here and threw myself in with neighbours and made many friends - all Paraguayans and still visit them. I think it will be easier for your roots to go deeper when you move and you will blossom and bloom even more there. In the meantime: siestas - they are ALWAYS good for heart, soul, mind, body and sanity.