I’ve been back for almost two months now. It is so hard to believe that much time has gone by since I was last in Asia. I don’t need to tell you in 2 or 3 succinct sentences about how my time in Hong Kong really was wonderful and challenging and growing and scary and all of those other things. You’ve been reading (hopefully), and so I don’t have to express to you that of course I am going to miss many aspects of living overseas. It really was an incredible, life-changing experience that I would not trade for anything. At the same time, I am glad to be home. Whatever and wherever home is. Before leaving Hong Kong, I had prepared myself for the inevitable reverse culture shock that would certainly befall me upon landing back in America. I had been through it before, and I know how incredibly difficult that can be.
When I was 16, I took my first major overseas trip, the first without either of my parents. I spent 3 weeks in Uganda, Africa on a mission trip. I absolutely fell in love with everything about my time there. The culture, the food, the people, the land, the music. I didn’t want to leave. In my heart, that was home. In a concrete room without running water or electricity; where we were threatened once by an elephant stampede and drank warm milk directly from the goat – I was home. Coming back to America everything seemed so….grand. Overdone. Trite. To top it off, our church was in the midst of a very serious leadership change that was devastating to many people, and the man who had been our leader in Africa suddenly left without even saying goodbye. That left our little rag-tag Africa group confused and without any leadership for dealing with reverse culture shock. So we each learned to manage on our own. I went through a period where I was angry. I found so many things about my home culture to hate, having seen such immense poverty. The wastefulness I found common in my own life shocked me, remembering how everything was a well-used resource in Uganda. For a long time, it was painful to be in America, and it was hard to call it home. But eventually, I re-immersed myself, and found things to love again. I became a part of my own culture once again. Changed. Redefined.
So, I expected a bit of this same kind of shock upon returning from Hong Kong. After all, I had only be in Uganda for 3 weeks, how much worse would it be after 15 months abroad!? Imagine my confusion when that reverse culture shock never hit. I kept waiting, expecting it to happen. Almost willing it to come, so I could just get it over with and move on with my life. I was waiting in limbo for a transition that just wouldn’t come. I started to become a little worried, and almost disappointed, that it never came. In Atlanta, I listened to my fellow Minterns talk about the difficulties of being home, of the frustrations of not being understood by their families. I empathetically watched them shed tears over feeling displaced in their own culture, of being torn between two homes. I had been there. And though it didn’t happen this time, it doesn’t mean I don’t know that pain. As I began to realize that perhaps RCS wasn’t going to hit, I started to be thankful. A smooth transition (if there is such a thing) is a blessing. Who knows why I didn’t experience many of the same emotions as before. One can only speculate.
I did however, learn something very important. I can be in more than one place at once. In Hong Kong, I was in my element – work wise. With all the traveling, rallying, photography and relationships built. That job was one that will be the measuring stick for all other jobs I ever have. But at the same time, I was out of my element in that I was away from those I loved most. While I created new and beautiful relationships in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, my heart was back here. And for that reason, I couldn’t wait to get home. Now that I am here, surrounded by family and friends who mean the world to me, I do find myself missing the work environment I left in Hong Kong. I yearn to be productive and active, to be working for an organization that is making a difference. A part of my heart is still there. And that is okay, I left it there on purpose.
My dear friend Abby talked about being afraid of losing “the voices in my head.” The beautiful voices that belonged to the beautiful people she connected with so strongly in Grenada. And Alycia reminded us that “the voices don’t leave us, they just become a part of a bigger and louder chorus.”
So to the voices in Uganda, in Hong Kong, in Kentucky, in Florida and for those I will begin to connect with in Seattle, begin your beautiful harmonies. Sing loud, so I may not forget. Sing strong, so as to be heard. Sing together, so that the strands of my life may continue to become an ever changing sound of pure beauty.
I’m not trying to avoid writing about all the things I’ve promised (i.e. readjustment, traveling, the impending move), but Heather tagged me, and I just couldn’t help myself! 🙂
~I know it is ridiculous, and is comparable to reading a tabloid magazine, but I’m addicted to the Palin-bashing blog The Mudflats. Even now that the election is over (thank goodness), I keep that blog in my Reader. I can’t help myself, that woman just begs to be made fun of.
~Oreos. I simply cannot resist them. I know they are horrible for you, and as much as I try to eat locally grown, healthy foods, oreos are my #1 weakness. And Doublestuf? Oh. my. goodness. Addicted.
~When it comes to music, I’m all about the “chick music” (as Kris calls it.) Patty Griffin. The Wailin’ Jennys. Deb Talan. But I love party music. Rap music. Especially when I’m driving. It may not make any sense, but I just can’t help myself. Not to be too clique, I like the beat.
~And as of today, a new trashy addiction that my father introduced me to. I used to watch reality TV shows, I will admit. There was a time in my life when I followed The Bachelor. It was a dark time in my life that I have repented for and moved beyond. But now I’ve been introduced to something even better. Even trashier. And funnier. “Ocean Force: Panama City Beach, Fl.” A show that highlights my hometown in its drunken Spring Break stupor. The show follows PCB cops responding to the typical Spring Break mayhem. It is beyond hilarious.
So, there you go. Let the teasing comense.
The lag in posting has been for a couple of reasons. Aside from the traveling and busy schedule from the debriefing session I’m currently attending, I have to admit that its not fun to write when it seems like no one is reading. In truth, I know that I’m listed in several Google Readers, and that I haven’t even written much of substance lately, but still, the fewer the comments, the less motivation it seems I have to write. Isn’t that sad? (No, this isn’t a ploy for comments, its just sad that I base my blogging on what others may or may not be reading.) I’ve also been avoiding blogging because I just have too many thoughts to get out on screen. Its hard to organize them all to where they make sense, so I’ve just been avoiding it all together. Which doesn’t help. So, here goes an update of sorts.
~The thing that I missed most while living in Asia, aside from the people and the Mexican food (of course), was driving. There is a freedom to being on the open road that cannot be obtained in any other way. I missed that freedom. The chance to just go. To be in control, at least to a degree.
~That being said, what I did not misswere other drivers. I got so ticked off one day in Lexington traffic at the horribly bright blue SUV in front of me who obviously could not see the large while “turn only” arrow in our lane, as he sat idly at the light while I fumed. Nothing bothers me more than people who just flat out don’t pay attention to traffic and signs. Okay, there is a lot more that bothers me, but not in that moment.
~My father, wonderful man that he is, was kind enough to lend me his truck to take on this 3 week traveling stint, so that I could finish moving out of Kentucky. He did so, out of the kindness of his heart, because I sold my car before I left for Hong Kong and renting just gets so stinkin’ expensive. One of my favorite features in his truck is the XM radio. I have fallen in love with the Coffeehouse Station. I heard Patty Griffin’s rendition of Crazy and it was awesome.
~One of the most common questions people ask me, now that I’m back from Hong Kong, other than, “Are you glad to be back?” and “Was it hard to be away from Kris?” (both seem like too obvious questions to even warrant an answer, but the answer is Yes to both), is, “Are you experiencing any kind of reverse culture shock?” Reverse culture shock is an odd syndrome that occurs when people become immersed in another culture for any period of time, and then return home to find that they miss the foreign culture and have a hard time adjusting to being home. I have many thoughts on this subject, and if the mood and time suits me later, I’ll write another post. But for now, I’m just going to leave it at a No, I haven’t. At first, that really worried me. What was wrong with me for not experiencing reverse culture shock? For now though, I’ve just accepted it with gratitude.
~That being said, one of the hardest parts of being back in the States is remembering that I don’t have to calculate time change all the time. I’m so used to quickly figuring out in my head what time it is back home before I call. I nearly almost didn’t call Kris the other day because it was 6pm, and in my head I was still calculating it as 6am. Note to self: We’re in the same time zone now.
~It is wonderful to be back around my fellow MIs. Even though we had only previously spent three weeks together over a year and a half ago, we have spent so much time connecting through blogs, emails, skype calls and Facebook messages that they are like family. They are easily trusted, and this time with them, though short, is a beautiful time for which I am much appreciative.
~And finally, I had a bit of a scare this week, that I won’t go into detail here. It was something that I had personally never had to deal with before, and it was overwhelming. Things turned out to be fine, thankfully. But it just makes me so thankful for the opportunities and services we have readily available here.
That’s all for now. More coherent thoughts possibly to follow.
I am currently blogging live from Hot-lanta where I’ve met up with my fellow Mission Interns for our Midterms (also known as debriefing). It is wonderful to reunite, to share stories, laugh and cry together. It is great to have a space that we all know is respected and safe to share. I know that it will be a draining and exhausting 10 days, but it will be worth it in the end I’m sure.
In other thoughts, I had to say goodbye to Kris yesterday. It was horrible. After spending two weeks together traveling, and then another week together over New Year’s, we had fallen back into our comfort level of being together. And the thought of being seperated again is agonizing. I know we will make it, and that it is so much easier to see (and talk to) one another more often, and that helps, but it just hurts to be doing what I want to do (moving, traveling, working), but apart for someone I love so much. I think goodbye is my least favorite word ever.
It is hard to believe that it is a whole new year. (Don’t we all say that, every year? I think so.) But it is true. This time last year I was celebrating with the Bethune House women, then home on skype celebrating on the New Years between Hong Kong time and East Coast time with my funny friend David. Now here I am, back in Kentucky (for the week at least), ringing in the new year with some of my closest and dearest friends (and of course the wonderful boy).
It has been an amazing year, full of travel, lots of learning, new friends and of course, challenges along the way. But I can honestly stand here today (and I am actually standing as I write this, as my laptop is on the ironing board….ah to be a visitor), and I can say that I am beyond pleased with this past year. I made a point to enjoy life, to learn as much from as many people as I could, and I feel I accomplished those goals. I also wanted to make last year a year of learning about my Identity. Who am I? Why am I here? You know, life’s simple questions. And I do feel that I have a better idea of who I am, and where I belong; lessons learned through the hard times of finding out who I was not.
I am looking forward to 2009, and the challenges and suprises it brings. I cannot wait to start the year off in a new city, and hope the year is full of visits from and/or to dear friends and family, hopefully a little bit of travel, and many new experiences. So, whatever time zone you are currently celebrating in, I wish you and yours a wonderful and safe time of celebration, and all the best in the New Year!