We just re-entered our host country a few weeks ago after a year-long home assignment (our longest one in almost 9 years). I knew there would be some culture shock after living in the comfy US for so long. Thankfully, with language skills and lots of the Father’s grace, it hasn’t lasted too long. I can now mostly laugh at such situations, where those same scenarios used to make me cry angry tears.
I thought I’d share a few things that hit me this time, along with how my reactions compare now verses then.
- Staring and picture taking. Then, it made me uncomfortable. I would wonder why they would stare an insanely long time, often right beside me, sometimes inches from my face (helloooo garlic breath), inspecting every feature. I would often look at them and give a small smile, hoping that me acknowledging their intense staring would turn them away. I quickly learned this never deters them. Ha!
Now, I have fun with it. Not in an I’m all-that kind of way, but if they’re going to stare or try to sneak a pic, may as well give them a smile, throw up the peace sign (the widely used “cool” symbol for pictures here in Asia), and try to get a laugh out of them. Or I’ll strike up a conversation. Of course that wasn’t possible in the early years, but it helps dissolve the staring a little faster these days.
- Smells and sounds. Then, I constantly covered my nose. I would make awful faces at the awful, raw smells that would hit me like a truck while walking on the street. One minute it was the normal, not-quite-clean-air smell, then BOOM!, sewage, stinky tofu (yes it’s real, and yes that’s its real name, and yes people eat it even though that’s its name), rotten garbage, etc. Gets ya every time. With the sounds, I was astounded. I imagined this country to be quiet because every person I’d met from this country before we moved here was reserved. Wrong! They talk on the phone loudly in public places, they play their music loud on the streets, and they really crank the volume with little individual speakers in the grocery store, yelling at you to make sure you know there’s a sale on eggs today. No way you could miss it.
Now, I still cringe at the smells and sounds, but I’ve mostly tuned it out. The smells don’t last too long, and the sounds have become a challenge to figure out what they say. Mostly because it’s in some garbled version of the language I actually learned.
- Every errand takes forever. I know many of you can relate! Then, the angry tears would flow. Why couldn’t they just do what I asked them to do? Why do I have to go to twelve different places to get one thing accomplished? Why do they look at me like I’m some alien that they couldn’t possibly help?
Now, well, those thoughts still cross my mind quite often. But I’ve realized that they didn’t create their systems to work with foreigners. Our passport number (our main ID here) is shorter than their ID number, not to mention it changes at least every 10 years. It completely blows their mind that the number tied to our identification could ever change! I don’t blame this line of thinking, but I have no other choice. So we try to only accomplish one big task a day, because often it’ll take longer than planned.
- Using my celebrity status as a platform to share Hope. Then, I didn’t even think about it.
Now, the attention can be used for purpose. As mentioned above, we’re treated like mini-superstars here. At first annoying, I now try to use some of those awkward situations as a launch pad into conversation. I know they’re just curious, so it’s easy for me now to just dive in and start answering all the questions. Yes, I can use chopsticks. Yes, my family is all from America despite our different skin colors. Yes, all 3 children are actually mine, and yes, I take care of them without hired help. After they’re finished interrogating, I can start asking about them, and of course I don’t mess around asking if they can use a fork. We can see Jesus doing some of the same. He always had people following Him, and he used those moments to share Truth, heal, and feed them in multiple ways.
We all have bad ______ (fill-in-the-blank with your location) days. There is much grace in the process—believe me, I still cling to that grace daily! Then, I saw them as doing everything wrong. Their hygiene wasn’t great, their manners were non-existent, and their helpfulness sporadic. I chose to only focus on the “bad” things. Now, I see them through a different light. They’re still very much a developing nation, not too far removed from mass starvation and a difficult regime. They act how they do because they don’t know any differently. As I’m walking the streets amidst the masses, I look some passersby in the eyes and ask the Father to show me how to love their culture better. It doesn’t come easily for me, but I know they have a hard time accepting things in my culture as well. I’m reminded God made each people group unique for a reason. It would be insanely boring if we were all similar, right? I’m right there in the trenches with you, bit-by-bit seeing them as the Father does—a broken people who desperately need Him.
I recently discovered these little lemony bites of heaven. They’re SO good! The blogger calls them lemonies because they’re the texture of a moist brownie, but with the refreshing punch of lemon. They’re super quick to put together (plus a little cool down and fridge time to make them even better), and they sure won’t disappoint! My local and ex-pat friends all love them!
I usually tweak a recipe at least a little, but I didn’t change a thing about this one! That says a lot about this blogger and her recipes. I try a lot of her things–check her out! So instead of re-writing the recipe here, just click here to visit Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. Enjoy!