11 September 2011

Culture SHUH-HOCK!

Lately I feel like I've been blaming my crappy attitude on an easy scapegoat: culture shock.  I'd like to think  that's what's really going on, but to be quite honest, this go-around has looked tremendously different from the last time.

When I arrived in Niger I found myself homesick for France.  I missed everything.  The food (okay, so not the snails!), the fashion, the easy access to anywhere, the pace of life, the Eiffel Tower, the public gardens, the beautiful doors, the architecture, the museums, the stark differences and similarities in each region, the baguettes, the culture, Provence, the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, the people . . . EVERYTHING (except the snails).

But the thing is, those were all the things I hated at one point or another (okay, so maybe not the Eiffel Tower, or the baguettes, but definitely the snails!).  But that's normal . . . that's (a part of) culture shock.

When I was in France, for me, it looked a little bit like this:
Month 3: Everything I disliked about France I held personally against my French professor. Not because she was did anything to deserve it, simply because she had become the figure-head of the French culture in my little sphere of the French experience.
Months 5&6 (and probably 7 too): I found myself going through 'community shock' . . . living in a dorm-like building with strangers from all over the world.  I felt trapped and judged and intruded upon and I wanted to hole-up in my little room.
Months 9&10: I enjoyed France and the French.  I started to like where I was and what I was doing.  But I also allowed myself to enjoy American culture again too . . . I watched American movies in English, just for the enjoyment of 'my roots.'  
Month 13: I woke up one day and realized that I absolutely loved France.  Sure there were aspects of the culture that still frustrated and confused me, but I decided that if I had to stay there, I could . . . and I'd enjoy it.
And that summed up the rest of my time: I enjoyed it.

But now I find myself in an entirely DIFFERENT place . . . going through an entirely different process.  Sure, some of the adjustment feelings are the same . . . and I find it easier to ask 'Am I feeling this way because I'm right, because I'm hot and tired, or because I'm going through culture shock?'

Yet this time, I feel like instead of 3-4 month cycles, it's 3-4 day cycles.  It's such a crazy rollercoaster.   I have now been here 7 months and I find myself going up and down, back and forth.  In the morning I will think 'You know, I'm going to make it' and by the afternoon I've swung to 'GET ME OUT OF HERE!' and then after a short nap I've gone back to thinking 'Hey, I like this.'

Some days I just want to keep my door locked and not leave my house . . . only to want to go from house to house in the village the next day.

Right now, today, I am feeling claustrophobic . . . landlocked . . . stuck.  I want to be able to get in a car and drive . . . or just be someplace non-remote.  But that's not possible.  Not today.  I think I'll go escape on Pinterest.


Anderson Deanna said...

Hang in there, it's not easy in any way.  I guess since we were only in France 12 months, I didn't get to the cycle stop of loving France - I stayed in the not liking it phase.  We've been here 13 months and I'm finally comfortable in just being here out of obedience, I don't like it or dislike it, I'm here because this is where God wants me to be and wherever He puts me is the best place for me, whether I can see it through my human eyes or not.  I'm praying for you!

Rosie said...

Welcome to life as an international!  Not easy.  Not at all.  I have surely seen my students ride this rollercoaster of varying and intense emotions . . . even when they went from one western culture to another.  And you made a more complex move than that. 
Have you had a good talk lately with your boss? 

Mamastouff said...

As I sit here and think and pray I don't know how to respond...I mean there are times I feel that way in Delran, NJ!! I know its not the same...with me its just wanting my way about something, then I remember its not about me...I am praying for you...still have your smiling face on fridge!!

The_bradley5 said...

Deb you have been on our minds a lot lately...  We are praying for you.  I met the wife of the Ambassador from Niger at a function this week...  made me think of you again.  Wish we could see you!