Crossing cultures is hard. Really hard.
We recently welcomed some old friends to our city that moved here from the states. They had been here a grand total of three weeks when he commented on the fact that everything was new and how that made things difficult.
When we moved here almost two years ago, I remember feeling like everything was new and different, but I guess I never said it out loud. So, when a friend recently made that statement it was like I was hearing it for the first time. In reality- the conversations around you are new and unfamiliar; how you flush the toilet is new; the smells are new; the food is new; the way people dress is new; water pressure is new; how you prepare food… everything. It’s all so new.
Being constantly surrounded by things that are new and unfamiliar can quickly cause me to focus on the plethora of things I can’t do. If I’m not careful, I find myself becoming discontent and unhappy about the path our lives are currently on. To combat those “poor, pitiful me” moments, I’ve decided to be more aware of all the new things I have learned to do and focus more on those.
Of course, there are the obvious things, for example:
-I can have a conversation completely in the Arabic language. Boomski! Now how many folks can make that claim?
-I can cook mansef, makloubeh, baba ganoush, kabsa, tabbouleh and many other wonderful Arabic dishes.
-I can read and write in Arabic.
But, those are the “no-brainers.” I’m talking more about the kinds of things I’ve learned that I may have never mastered if we weren’t on this nomadic journey. You know, the kinds of things that I’ve even managed to surprise myself with.
-The city we live in is crazy busy and has an insane amount of traffic. Due to that fact we’ve had to learn to cross several lanes of traffic on foot while cars are whizzing by at the speed of light. The really crazy part is that I can do it without even batting an eye. I just step right out into on-coming traffic with a confident look on my face, like I own the place. Honestly, it has become second nature. I think I could now successfully cross Highway 280 on foot with all 5 kids in tow and never even get my heart rate the slightest bit elevated. Girl, I got this and I’m so proud of myself for it.
-I’ve learned to cook everything from scratch. Instant foods are non-existant here. You mean you can’t find canned biscuits, break and bake cookie dough, instant Jell-o pudding, Grand’s cinnamon rolls, Bisquick, frozen pancakes or canned pumpkin? Nope. It’s next to impossible. But, the good news is that because none of those things are available here, I’ve learned to cook everything from scratch. And, I’m pretty darn good at it if I do say so myself.
-I can easily go 24 hours without having running water in our home and we’ve even managed to make it a total of 4 days without any running water in our home, and the best part is…I didn’t have an emotional come apart. I’ll spare you the details of what that really looks like for a family of seven to go four days without running water but trust me…it’s not easy, but I’ve figured it out. Just this week our water pump broke and we were without water for over 24 hours and it barely even got my feathers ruffled. Sure, my sink was piled up with dishes that needed to be washed and the toilets needed to be flushed, but other than that, we didn’t miss a beat. I feel so rugged.
-I’ve trained my hair to go
5-6 days, 3-4 days without washing. I know most of you are reading this while simultaneously gagging at the thought of my nasty, greasy hair but after 2-3 weeks, it really wasn’t nasty at all. I’ve blogged before about the water situation here and how it can cause your hair to fall out, so the only solution was to have dry shampoo brought from the states whenever possible and train my hair to go without washing. To some of you that may sound just plain crazy but you’d be surprised how much time you can shave off your morning routine when you don’t have to wash and dry your hair everyday. I’m just sayin’.
I hope in no way this comes across as boasting. I recognize that apart from the grace of God in my life I’d be curled up in the fetal position on a weekly basis sucking my thumb and begging to move back “home” but God has been gracious. Really gracious. Not a day goes by that I don’t have the privilege of seeing His hand at work in my life, in the life of my husband and children and in the countless lives of the people we live among here in the Middle East. And sometimes, it’s better for all of us if we choose to dwell on those things.