It is hard to believe it has been 18 months. 18 months since I tearfully said goodbye to my mom and dear friends at the Indianapolis Airport. 18 months since I had a minor freak out on the plane asking myself what in the world have I gotten myself into. 18 months since I have eaten Chik-fil-a, had a diet coke from McD's (thanks to the Detroit airport), lived in a society where everyone spoke my native tongue, and could pick up my phone at any moment to call a friend or family member and not have to think how much it would cost me in Tanzanian Shillings. Its been 18 months.
Its been 18 months since I got my first glimpse at the dream and vision I had on my heart for so many years. 18 months since I first encountered the insane speed bumps throughout Tanzania. 18 months since I met my teammates who have now become family. 18 months since I saw the bright eyes of the kids in the neighborhood, noticing that their eyes still had hope. 18 months since my dream became a reality and 18 months since I started to fall in love with this place.
You would think, that after 18 months, I would no longer experience culture shock or if I was, at least that it wouldn't affect me to such a degree. But research, and more research, and yet more research speaks loud and clear that culture shock, is a process, and it seems to be never ending. As long as I live here, I will experience the stress of living in a country that is not my own, that is not my home, and does not function the way my home does. A lot of what I have read, says that many living in a culture other than their home culture will have waves, they will have periods of set back or just plain frustration, and oddly, it seems to be on a cycle of every three months.
So why all this culture shock explanation? So that you will know that I am ok and normal as you read the rest of this post. And instead of worrying about me and if I am depressed or losing it, you can pray with me through this process.
The last 3 weeks have been the hardest three weeks since arriving in Tanzania, and quite honestly, probably in my life. Can I just put it all out there? I have been a constant grump. I have been in a state of constant annoyance, of frustration, of grief. I have been in mourning and in grieving so much to the extent that when a friend Jonathan Bow sent me an email asking me to dream I just couldn't. I couldn't dream folks. Now that is pretty pathetic.
I am not sure why it is harder this time around. Usually I can pick myself up quite easily and do what is necessary to endure and continue loving, but this time, my insides hurt, literal physical pain in my heart as I walk this valley with Jesus. And honestly, I think because in the last month, I have had the differences of my home culture and my new culture so blantantly written in my daily life. I know, it was just a car accident, but honestly, I am realizing it affected me in ways I didn't think possible. I felt those feelings of insecurity, of threat, of "you are a guest in this country and I can rule over you" of, you are so clueless about how things are really to function, feelings of abandonment, of hurt, of grief, of anger, oh I was so angry, and alone. I was walking that journey, that no one I had met had walked here, and yes Jesus was with me, and an advocate, and my team, and CMF however I felt so very alone in the process. I was alone in my head as I tried to process all of those feelings. And they all came to the surface in the expression of grumpy, annoyed, sadness, and grief. Add to the accident, the court appearance that shook my foundation and then my constant struggle with fear and an increase in crime in Arusha, which led to increasing our measures of safety as single women here, lets just say I let myself get consumed with the frustration of living in this place.
But there is a paradox, because I LOVE this place. I LOVE my Jesus and I LOVE my job, and the life I live here. I grieve thinking about leaving it, yet I am constantly trying to back my bags for a road trip just to get away from it all. Somebody send some bath salts will ya?
Are you getting me yet? I am stressed. I am tired. I am tired of being stressed and being tired makes me feel more stressed. And somehow in the midst of it all, I got so focused on the differences, the stresses, the annoyances, and how I am not from here, that I missed the point. I missed the joy. I missed the Giver of Joy.
This morning I woke up in that familiar place of the last three weeks...with a desire to not face the world and crawl back in bed. (I really like my fuzzy blanket on my bed :))A desire to board a plane and post on the blog and facebook that I was coming back to America... a desire to run from the stresses of this place. But as with every other day I took myself back to the King, to the Father God and laid myself down and said Jesus help me. Help my grieving heart. Help my heart that hurts as I meet men and women and children who are dying, help my heart that hurts as it encounters a grandmother who is raising her 3 year old grandson who has TB and AIDS who is also taking care of herself who also has both of these dreadful diseases. Lord, help my heart that longs to understand this place and be a blessing, and help my heart that hurts because I still don't feel fully at home here. Lord, I hurt! I need you. I need you to remind me of Joy. I don't like feeling this way and I know this is not what you have for me. I need you. I need more of you.
Life here is hard. It takes getting used to, and I don't know where I got the idea that it would be a quick and easy transition, or that it would one day end, but the reality is, that no matter how much I try to adjust, there will still be parts of me that are American, parts of me that get confused, and misunderstands, and hurt and frustrated. There will be parts of me that long for home. And I also know, that when I go home, there will be parts of me that long for this place.
So remember, this is normal, and I am OK! In fact I am better than OK because I have the Protector, the Provider, the King of Kings, and my Father to walk this journey with me. I have everything I need. But you can keep praying.