It happens almost every time we start a new book. I pick the book, am excited, make the announcement and then start to reread it and think, “What in the world were you thinking?!” A moment of panic sets in and I think This is it, the jig is up. They’re going to see I have no idea what I’m doing.
So, when I opened Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan to reread it and these familiar feelings started swirling, I told myself to just ride it out, all would be okay. And it is! Nuggets are hidden in these stories she tells.
In chapter 2 Carolyn said, “My mind wandered all the way back to yesterday when I’d been a successful, competent adult.” She went from a high powered, “important” job in the capital city, wearing fancy clothes and getting to go to fancy events to rural town, functioning as a temporary (albeit well dressed) receptionist.
I’ve shared before that one of the reasons I picked this book is because we haven’t talked before about cross-cultural experiences within a country and how they can, at times, be more disorienting than actually going to another country. Because, after all, we’re still in the same country. How different can it be?
Obviously some of the countries we live in are large, so there’s going to be differences. But I know smaller countries have differences too. Where I first lived in China had historically been separated from the capital by a bunch of mountains so the “emperor was far away.” It created a laid-back cultural that loved to sip tea and play Mahjong (Majiang). And do not ever, ever, ever schedule anything during the rest time after lunch. They took their resting seriously.
When I moved to Beijing, I really wondered if I was in the same country. Where was the sweet pace of life? Where was time to sip tea and talk? Why did everyone in the entire city have to work so hard? Hadn’t they heard of this lovely thing called “rest time”? Well, the “emperor” wasn’t far away, he was near and his presence was in the air.
Have you lived in different cities/locations in your country of service? Do share, please.
Because she thought she’d be straddling two worlds for a short time, she kept a foot in each and tried to keep them separate. I had to smile when she’d take calls from Washington while she was in the family barn and the person she’d be talking with asked, “Is that a cow I hear”? “What? No, no cows here.” How have you handled your two worlds coming together? When do you try to integrate or introduce them to each other and when do you try to keep them separate?
I appreciated at the end of Chapter 4 her description of her youth as being “misfitting” and how she felt she fit in Washington. I think we can all relate to fitting in some settings better than others. I remember as I got older and realized that for a few of the people from my elementary school, elementary school was the pinnacle of their social power. With their feather bangs and big comb sticking out of their back pockets, they were the epitome of cool. I, however, had a “mature mouth” (not that way!). I was ready for braces a good two years before most of my peers. Nothing says “not totally cool” like an appliance in first grade, head gear in third and braces in fifth.
My (delightful) quirkiness makes sense in junior high classrooms and foreign countries. And thanks to many years overseas, I’m now given a pass in most settings and my semi-oddness is now endearing. Of course, I can’t know what it would be like if I’d never lived overseas. But I wonder what I’d be like if I hadn’t. How about you? Where do you feel you fit? What has contributed to your fitting or misfitting?
Two more quick thoughts. I appreciated this quote from the end of chapter 5: “I got it. I was going to have to downshift from the fast-lane pace that was a prerequisite for survival in Washington. Here, I just needed to coast.”
Her relationship with Jacob reminded me of us and the ways we are thrown onto teams of people who are, on the surface, quite different from us. But if we have the same moral compass, isn’t life richer for the differences?
Carolyn interacts with a host of colorful characters. Did any of them remind you of someone you know? Back home or on the field? What did you think of how Carolyn and her father interacted with her mom’s medical treatment (e.g. not being in the hospital when she had surgery)?
After my mini-panic attack, it turns out we have plenty to talk about :)! See you in the comments.
P.S. Here’s the reading plan:
June 2 — Chapters 1-7
June 9 — Chapters 8-14
June 16 — Chapters 15-20
June 23 — Chapters 21-25
Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.