The first phase is initial shock. This is usually just your first initial feelings of the things you see when first arriving. For example, we were surprised with the amount of taxis and then of course having to ride in one brings a mixture of fear and surprise that they are relatively safe!
The second phase is the vacation phase. This is usually a time that is fun because you are seeing new places, trying new food and life has a new excitement as it is so different from the old daily grind. This phase lasts about 4 to 6 weeks...and then you are ready to return home.
I am most likely experiencing the 3rd phase in culture shock. In this phase you are now homesick, frustrated with not being able to speak the language, tired of the food, and have developed frustrations with the difference in culture. Since everyone experiences these phases differently there is no set time frame for each phase.
I feel like I have been feeling a frustration with the differences for almost three weeks now. At first I just wanted to get into my car (which I don't have) and drive far away where no body would stare at me or tell me that my baby needs to be wearing more clothes. There are times when I do not want to hear one more word in Spanish and in these times I find myself very reluctant to speak Spanish. I have started to dread going to language school and the fours hours there each day feel like an eternity.
One difference that may be the most difficult for me is the noise level. There is ALWAYS noise. Noise in the street, noise in the house, noise at church. When I wake up the garbage truck plays a song to announce it is arriving and this starts at 6 in the morning until around 9...the same song. There are barking dogs at every house. There is a lady selling newspapers up and down the street starting around 7 in the morning screaming "pueblo correo," but to us it sounds like "huevo (eggs), mayo." Brad thought she was selling eggs and mayonnaise for the longest time. The doors remain open at church for the entire service even when they are doing construction on the house across the street. I find myself sitting there mad that they refuse to close the doors instead of trying to focus on why I am in church to begin with. The security guard for our neighborhood blows a whistle every five minutes around the clock. When I first arrived I thought it was an exotic bird (vacation phase) and now I want to throw something at him (culture shock)! These are just a few of the noises in the streets as there are many more vendors with their own special noise makers to announce their presence.
It is in this phase where Brad and I feel that we lose our focus on a daily basis and take turns reminding each other of our call from God, the amazing things we have witnessed in such a short time period (like the 9 people who gave their hearts to Jesus after watching the Jesus film on Thursday), and that there are people who will not be in Heaven if we are not faithful to His call. I am so thankful for the technology that enables me to talk with someone, even see their faces weekly and sometimes even daily from home. I am thankful for the blogging world because reading others testimonies and challenges to grow in my faith have become a support system for me. I am thankful for Extreme and the well planned events like this retreat that reminds me of why I am here and provides me with a renewed passion for the work that God has allowed me to be apart.
I could write more of my frustrations but I am determined to count my blessings instead. But there are days when it is to difficult to write these things because they still feel too intense. I strongly believe that I am to be accountable to you who have chosen to be apart of our support team (prayer and financial) and so I will try to be honest with you at the same time not dwelling on the negative because in reality the positive is so much greater. Thank you for your prayers, cards, email messages and care packages! We love you and pray for you too!
By the way, there are three more phases in culture shock to come...I will keep you posted.