I have been thinking about this post for a couple of months now. Part of me doesn’t want to post this because I am not sure how this will be taken. The other half of me wants to make people uncomfortable (is that rude?), myself included. I also want to remember. It’s too often I forget the deep lessons the Lord teaches me, and I don’t want this to be one of those times.
While recently back in the states to have our baby girl Cypress I had my first true run-in with reverse culture shock. I had heard of people dealing with culture shock when returning to their home countries before, but to be honest, I thought it was a load of dirty diaper (pretty appropriate for my current life stage). I mean, I deal with issues when I return to the states like not being able to think clearly in English, being overwhelmed by a room full of people chatting (when you are used to straining to understand what one person is saying, it’s a crazy feeling to be able to understand all the conversations around you at the same time), and forgetting that I can drink the tap water. This last trip I went thirsty in the middle of the night many a time—hello, breast feeding—at my mom’s because I didn’t want to walk downstairs to get water out of the fridge. There was a bathroom sink 10 feet from my bed. Bet you didn't know I was dumb AND lazy.) This time was different. I had all the usual adjustments going on, but there was something else. I was having a lot harder time relating to the people and responding appropriately in conversations. Here's why: I was different. Two years in Mozambique had changed me.
ONE: YOU GUYS! I was totally in Hobby Lobby (think holiday crowd) with my mom and this lady in her mid 50’s kept staring at me…and it’s not because I was looking fly because I doubt I washed my hair that day. After the third eye contact as we were passing each other in a main aisle…I GENTLY GRABBED HER ARM AND TOOK HER HAND IN MINE AND ASKED IF I KNEW HER?!!!!? After her stammering, “Na-na-no” (and by the way my brain didn’t even register her look of terror until later) I continued to hold her hand in both of mine and say something like, “Oh, ok, you kept looking at me so I thought I knew you. Blah, blah, blah have a Merry Christmas!” Yep, that wasn’t weird. Nope, not at all. This is a true story! (I really hope you got a good visual; it deserves a good visual.) I let go of her hand and rounded the corner and something about seeing my mom with a clean buggy in an organized aisle full of giant paintings with things like, “Be your own kind of beautiful“ in scripted fonts made me snap back state-side and realize I had just freaked some poor women out. I went straight up Mozambican on that chick; direct, personable, un-rushed, with a dash of PDA. I knew in that moment that part of me was different. And I wasn't upset about it.
TWO: The majority of Americans are so dis-satisfied with their lives. From conversations about hating work to commercials for medications that will put a smile on your face, I heard complaining everywhere. If I’m going to be honest, it was like nails on a chalkboard to me. Now please don't think I am saying I am above this. COMPLETELY FALSE! I have been in Mozambique for two years now and Mozambicans don’t have the art of complaining down. They are pretty much bad at it, especially believers. Let me say that again, especially believers. Ok, got that out of my system. Two years of not hearing un-warranted negativity AND having no one to complain to will purge you of your pettiness. Trust me. Every time I heard someone say anything even slightly negative, I automatically thought about the positive side of it. Being in Mozambique has taught me that every shadow is a declaration that light is near. This is not how I have always been and I am still working on it, just ask my friends and family. Right now, this positive way of thinking is a newly formed habit, but I want it to be my heart condition. I want to have satisfaction. Satisfaction—knowing Christ is ALL I need—what an amazing feeling.
THREE: What in the world people!? I mean come on. Let’s give each other a break. I was in SHOCK at how many snide remarks, eye rolls, sarcastic comments, and hurtful things were said, but almost NEVER to the person they were intended for. This is straight up not normal for me anymore. If a Mozambican has an issue with someone or a question about something, they either keep it to themselves or address it. Period. Example: Two of our students were playing with Cypress and one of them looked over at me and said, “Is there something wrong with Cypress' feet?” Now, in the U.S. this would be a no-no, BUT five seconds after the poor mom walked away there would be hushed whispers and “bless her heart...” Here, everything is out in the open. You deal with things together. It took a bit to get used to...my jaw dropped in the middle of a leadership meeting one time when one of our student very directly called out another for being rude and speaking over someone else. Do you know how it was received? The guy said, "I'm sorry; you're right." That was the end of it. I was expecting drama, but nope, issue resolved.
SIDE-NOTE: Nothing is wrong with Cypress' feet. But she does have freaky long toes.
It's amazing how our surroundings shape us, how what goes in our ears really does come out of our mouths, and how what we see modeled in front of us, we often do. Sometimes, this works against us, but it doesn't have to. If I am becoming Mozambican in many ways after only two years, then I can become more like Christ, I just have to spend more time with him. I keep imagining how different I would be if I let myself be fully influenced by kingdom culture and, you know what, I am not going to imagine anymore. Who's with me?
Have you ever experienced culture shock of any kind? I'd love to hear your stories!
Someone please go hold hands with a stranger in Hobby Lobby. Kidding, DO NOT DO THIS! Have I mention that I love Mozambique? You should come visit.