Tuesday, November 17, 2009

OPEN MIKE: from Laura in Mexico

[what's brewing: a nice blend from Mexico]

We are anticipating a possible furlough of about 3 months during which I’ll be working part time as a temporary in my old profession (Medical Physicist). While we are at it, if it works out, we are hoping for time to take care of some other “stuff”–detox, training, raise support, clarify our ministry focus, and simply be with the Father. I’ve been thinking about what I’ll miss and not miss about this place. I’ve decided I’ll miss the “everyday people” the most:

The little guy who comes by every day selling squash seeds to my husband.

The store owner across the street.

The little kids in my English “story hour” class.

I’ll miss the “church people” too, but I think I’ll miss the “everyday people” even more.

Re-entry is never easy – sometimes I think it’s tougher than the culture stress of acclimating to a new environment. This is especially tough when we know we are going to be rubber-banding back into our “new” culture, so we don’t want to fully embrace everything about our country of origin.

I’ve recently realized that one thing that has slowed me down from fully acclimating to our “new” culture is that we live pretty close to the border (about an 8 hour drive). We have reasons to travel back and forth fairly frequently – 4 or more times a year. We HAVE to go back twice a year to deal with visas (arrgggghhh).

This yo-yo is becoming more common with all of us (or most of us) since we have Internet access and therefore “on the spot” (or nearly) communication with everyone and exposure to the many things we left behind. Take this blog for instance! What a treat to share a cup-o-joe with you, me here in the bookstore we run while you are ???. I wouldn’t trade for it – but I think it does change the dynamics of assimilating into a new culture.

What is your experience with re-entry?

Some of you have been out there a lot longer than I; what have you observed about our “information” age and how living in this time is different from the ancient days before the Internet? (Ouch, burned my tongue on that sip of coffee - ancient being oh, what, 15-20 years?) I know there are others out there who have to spend months in the US between visas. What about you? Do you feel like you are always a stranger in either world, or is it just me?

How do you handle the constant interruption of your ministry focus – in either place – not to mention the every-day life adjustments?

Thanks for sharing a cup with me. If you like, next time I’ll make us some cappuccinos – do you want vanilla in that?

Laura in the central mountains of Mexico

[Editor's note: Thanks, Laura!]


Michelle Kiprop said...

For me it is interesting because I'm married to a national in my ministry country. So the term "home" gets even more confusing. I find that I use it for both countries rather regularly. We plan to be in Africa long-term and own our home and land here. However there are times when I just want to go "home" to CA. Holiday seasons are when it hits the hardest.

I've only been here for a few years but I'm already starting to experience that sensation of not really fitting entirely in, in either place. It's an interesting, beautiful, and sometimes painful journey...

Stephanie said...

Yes, I absolutely feel like a stranger in both worlds. AND, strangely enough, there are moments that I feel totally "at home" in both worlds, too. I think that knowing you will feel this way has been a first step in healthy re-entry. If my expectations as realistic as possible it seems to help. If I know before hand that people simply won't understand me, that I will feel out-of-water often and that it will not be "the same" ever again... it seems to help when I encounter it. On the other hand, I think diving into those things you love about your "home" culture help too... those relationships, those foods, those activities--- just dive in and enjoy! For me this can off-set the difficulties of re-entry stress, too. Finally, I think for me allowing the pain of re-entry to bring me closer to the sufferings of Christ, maybe understanding Him a bit more---this is a good backdrop for me to see it through His eyes. All in all, though, I must say, it is never easy. But I like what Michelle said... painful and beautiful at the same time.

kimom said...

I agree. Painful and beautiful. When we are in and out of various transitions, it's a sacrifice I have to mentally 'place on the altar'. I give Jesus my stability, my security, and my comforts to a certain level. Those are precious things to give up for Him. He knows what they cost us. But that doesn't always help in the middle of a bickering messy family of 5! Grace for each day of your transition Laura!

As to what feels like 'home'... I agree with Stephanie, neither and both. Our last furlough turned into 19 months. And I've always thought it takes about 6 months to feel 'at home' again. That's been true for us on both sides of the ocean. Relationships make a place feel like home for me more than most things, but those take time and investment. It can get exhausting to invest over and over again. Sometimes I'm frankly just not up for it.

Hope your move goes as smoothly as possible Laura!

Grace from Congo,

Tim and Susan said...

We really struggle with "re-entry" and reverse culture shock each time we come back home. It takes us about 6-9 months to start feeling comfortable (after being gone for 3-4 years).

Don't worry! You aren't the only one!

Also, for us home assignment is hard because our roles are even more vague and less structured than on the field. This makes it hard as a couple too sometimes.

Sometimes I have to purposely put on my "American" hat (and take off my "missionary" hat) to be able to relate and fit back into American Christian church life...very odd, but thinking that way helps me better to relate to Joe Blow Christian sitting next to me at church.

a56piano said...

Great stuff, gals.... Somehow, it just helps knowing there are others who have successfully navigated the re-entry waters (even if their boat does make the trip often!) I love the "beautiful sometimes painful" honesty. And, i can relate to somtimes feeling at home in both worlds, and sometimes not feeling at home in either!
The one thing that is interesting to me is how being in more frequent contact with folks in our passport country has changed the whole picture. I think that might be a great topic sometime.

If you are thinking about submitting a blog for coffeegirl- I highly recommend doing so. I had to think a little differently than I do for my own "rambling" blog... it was therapeutic just to write and to do so in a way that asked for responses.

I'm looking forward to the next entry tomorrow - and I don't even know who will be the author! Yeah!


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