On culture shock and home and war.

Culture shock is always a funny thing.

Something weird is happening with my eyes- they are constantly burning and red, I think (I hope) because it is so dry here compared to Philippines. My skin also is dry and looks a bit snake-like at times. But my hair is 100x more happy here. My hair actually wants me to move back to America.

My mouth is looooving a good summer salad, but my stomach- NOT. AT. ALL. She is also not appreciating cream cheese, yogurt, Dr. pepper, sandwiches, popcorn, fruit, and a plethora of other foods I keep trying to feed her. Where is that small white kernel-y stuff you normally feed me in hefty amounts twice a day? My stomach is asking.

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The hot, heavy water pressure in the shower feels so great. But the shaky feeling when I’m finished leaves me wondering sometimes if its even worth it. The air conditioning freezes me out and sometimes I feel so cold I literally feel myself getting angry. Laundry takes a whopping two hours and smells like angels hair, BUT all the good angel smelling chemicals have given me an itchy rash.

Driving is a trip. I have forgotten how to yield and who gives way to who and how the left turn system works and that it is apparently NOT considered friendly to use my horn to let the other cars know I’m near. I pulled out in front of someone today from the parking lot and said someone was NOT happy with me. I often forget that I don’t need to push out and take my space, there is actually a system for when the space is given to me. Oops.

Paying with a card is not the same as 6 years ago. Sometimes you swipe, sometimes you insert, sometimes you insert quickly, sometimes you leave it in. They want you to sign but don’t give you a pen! Apparently my finger is a pen now. SO.much.anxiety. I always tell myself to remain cool and calm when paying- I’m afraid if I mess up they will think I stole the card! It’s my card sir, I promise.

Applebees…Chilis…and some random steakhouse in nowhere Kansas- ROBOTS will take your payment and even your refill order if you want. Okay not robots exactly, its these little black machines glued to your table, but that might as well be a robot. Menus are all now the size of chapter books. Walgreens and CVS have transformed into supermalls, instead of my handy corner convenience store.

I have to remember how to pump my own gas and that makes me feel weird. It spilled out onto me the other day and it made me question why America is one of the only places in the world where you have to pump your own stinky gas?! I don’t want to do this. Philippines has made me lazy in this way.

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Summer fashion is so absurd and if I could appropriately hate on it here, I would. But I only have bad things to say so I will refrain.

When I walk into a group of people, especially older than me, instinct still tells me to greet them all with a kiss on the cheek. But I’m thrilled to report, no awkward moments yet.

There are machines that schedule when your grass gets water and how much water it gets. There are machines that empty the trash. There are machines that wash my dishes (no complaints here on that one).

My brother informed me the other day that correct gratuity is no longer 12% or even 15%, but 20%. Yikes. I felt the need to go back now to my waiter from last week and apologize.

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These are all expected, and even typical culture shock things that most people returning from oversees will talk about. These are not hard things. It is an adjustment, for sure. And it can be frustrating or awkward or even funny sometimes. But I do my best to prepare before I come here, knowing that America will always be, well, America. I’m not into making people feel guilty or weird. And living between two worlds is just part of the assignment.

But there certainly are hard things about coming home, most of which I just cannot explain well at all. There are paradoxes and things that seemingly try to rip my heart apart and shut me up inside myself. It is isolating. Its not the food or the driving that makes coming home to America so difficult. I would say that is more of a short-term workers experience.  When you have made a third world country your home, adopted its culture, and given your heart to its people…when you’ve witnessed how hard they work just to survive, when you’ve eaten meals in their homes and held hands and prayed in tears through their trials and watched the kids grow up…when they’ve been there for you too. The hard is just different. The shock is greater and feels way more debilitating. Here is just one example-

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10 days ago, only a few days after my feet hit American soil, the Islamic State of Southeast Asia (a branch of ISIS) launched an attack on Marawi City (about 60 miles away from where I live in the Philippines and way closer and more intimately connected with the villages we serve in). Martial law was declared on the island and a nasty war is taking place. ISIS has declared its plan openly, intending to take over our island Mindanao and turn it into the next Syria. People I know and love and do life with every single day are in great danger, hundreds are dying in Marawi, and the ministry is affected.

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I wake up every day in my angel smelling sheets and my safe home in the suburbs, I pour my coffee and open the Philippines news (because PLEASE don’t even get me started on American news coverage!!) and I think of Marawi and CDO and the people and ministry I love. I think about my dogs and how they get scared during fireworks, I wonder how they’re handling the helicopters. I read about child soldiers and innocent civilian hostages being used as human shields, and air strikes and IEDs. I talk to people back home in the Philippines. I see pictures of places that are familiar to me and I worry about my friends getting stopped at dangerous checkpoints. I watch the death count rise.

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Then, I walk out the door and the lady at Starbucks is yelling at the manager because her coffee has too much cream, and the neighbor is mad at the lawn guy for not trimming the edges to his liking, and the girl at the nail salon chipped her nail and needs it fixed “like yesterday” and she cant wait her turn in line because she has somewhere to go, and the price tag on that display dress in the window at Nordstrom reads $986, and everyone at the party is one-upping each other about their houses both past and present. Trump is everyone’s favorite hot topic and there are enough opinions involved to keep everyone fighting with each other until we all die.

Meanwhile, people are actually dying and 20,000 others are evacuated from their homes and staying in mass shelters, during the most important time of their year, Ramadan.
In the Philippines, I have to fight hard to understand 80 percent of conversation around me. Here, I understand it all very easily but sometimes I wish I could just turn it off.

This is emotional whiplash every single day. My heart fights to keep up.

It is crazy how fast things change…how much I’ve changed. The ONLY thing that feels familiar and unchanging is that construction mess on I-35. Good ole faithful highway, so kind of you to make me feel right at home.

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