Saturday, April 18, 2009

Culture Shock

I have to apologize for staying away so long but I have not had anything positive to say...and my mother taught me "if you can't say something nice it is better to say nothing at all."  But the last three days I attended the Extreme staff retreat and the first day we reviewed the process of culture shock.  One of the things that I learned is the importance to talk about your feelings and to not hide away.  So, I am going to try to share with you some of what I learned about culture shock and some of my feelings...

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It was good to hear from you! Sorry you have been frustrated lately. Hang in there. God is faithful and will provide all your needs. Jeff, kids and I think of you often and pray for you too. Love you all! April

Dawn said...

Sounds kind of like a roller coaster ride! I'm glad you do have positives to concentrate on.

The package was amazing. So glad it was worth the cost!

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. A person does not truely understand culture shock unless they have experienced it. The 14 mo. I spent in the PI tested my strenght and faith.I was 19 and didn't have any family with me. It was then that I realized how much I loved my country and our way of life. All I wanted to do was get back to the States. indI Don't know if you remember my testimony that I have shared about being in the Christian Servicemen center in Subic Bay. Durring one of the services a missionary to the PI came and spoke to the military men and women. They shared about their call to the PI and how much they love serving there. It was durring that service that I realized my faith and committment to God was lacking. All I could think about was getting out of that country. Following the service I went to one the up stairs prayer rooms and consecrated my life to the Lord and told God where ever he led me I would follow. I had not felt a call to full time yet. However, I have to admit, even though I was willing, I was thankful he never called me to be a missionary. I have the deepest respect for missionarys and love taking offerings for them like Faith Promise. I have shared this with you to say I understand your culture shock. I am impressed with you and Brad's courage and heart to serve God in Peru. I pray for you guys numerous times a day and will continue. Keep leaning heavy on Jesus. He can sustain you!!! I love you guys!!! DAD

Jackie said...

Michelle,
Thanks again for putting your heart into words so honestly. I hope it was as much a blessing to write as it was to read. We love hearing every detail of your life there, and with all due respect to your mom (and to Thumper's mom too!)I think the people reading your blog want to share this experience with you as fully as you can allow us to - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There is something about confessing our humanness and vulnerability that invites God's grace and the compassion of His children. And who knows who else might be struggling just as you've been and just needs to know they're not alone?

So glad the retreat was a bright spot. I hope the next phase of culture shock is a little better!

Give each other big hugs from us, and throw in some extra kisses for Tyler. Looking forward to talking with you soon. We love you and are praying that God will hold you and Brad close to His heart!

A Day In the Life . . . said...

Thanks for the blogging, it's been good to follow your adventures . . . no matter what they are.

In reference to how much clothing to put on a baby, my mother in law does the same thing, bundles baby up until she's sweating and cranky - I say "Don't listen to 'em!" As you know, overheating a child is much more deadly than under-heating . . :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Michelle thanks for the thoughts and feelings you shared. I miss talking with you and hanging out. You, Brad and your little man Tyler are in my prayers.

Carri said...

Wow--I just now read your culture shock piece and can totally relate to it! Stephen was 4 months old when we went to Chiclayo, so I can relate to everyone giving advice about the baby. It makes perfect sense to them! :)

As for the noise-OH my goodness!--that was something that would wear on a person.

I'll never forget the horrible smells we had to get used to. Sewer, urine. . .vacant lots were the worst when we would walk or drive past.

God gives strength as we need it--I know He did for me.

Thank you for minding God and going to Peru to do your part in His harvest.

Bless you--Carri Lauson