and just when you thought my life was all peaches

Transitioning to another culture is hard. Sometimes it’s brutally hard.

It’s like this: not only do I have to manage my own emotions, but I also have to help four children (and a husband) manage theirs. I (we) have to navigate the ins and outs of having a maid, figure out how to get money out of a bank and get groceries to the house without a car, learn the ropes of the buses and taxis and the layout of several different towns, feed a family, stock and manage a household, pay the rent and water and gas, learn to use cell phones and text (I am texting!)…and all of this (or mostly all) while speaking another language.

The simplest things take superhuman effort, like finding vinegar (located yesterday! in a stall in the market! score!). Getting a store to fill out a receipt can take an extra 15 minutes. Just finding a grounded extension cord involves visiting about 20 different hardware stores.

All of the children are struggling in some way or another, but one in particular (the one we knew would have trouble) is crashing and burning right and left. Her anxiety (same stuff she deals with in the States) is through the roof. It manifests in atrocious amounts of defiance and monstrous tantrums. All the kids, in fact, are coping attitudes.

Part of the problem (and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or child psychologist, to figure this out) is that we haven’t had a clear schedule for the last three weeks. Standard methods for discipline haven’t been an option. The children haven’t had regular chores or studies. Plus, they’ve been on overload from all the new things they are learning…

…Like how to smoosh into taxis and buses without fussing (too much).
…Like how to eat their food with tortillas.
…Like how to brush their teeth with a cup of water and take cold showers.
…Like how to put toilet paper in the trash can instead of the toilet.

It’s a lot of newness, and while often exciting and doable, new things all the time take a toll.

time out

In the thick of dealing with a tantruming child, my typical feelings of over-whelmedness are ten-fold. Our regular support system is no longer at hand. (Yes, we have tons of support in spirit—never to be underestimated!—and there are lots of people here who are watching out for us, but it’s a far cry from the thick web of support we’re used to.) We are going this alone. That’s the hard truth.

Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, we had a regular afternoon rest time. Throughout the day, I had enough energy and resolve to follow through with discipline issues (and were there ever issues, hoo-boy). Perhaps we’re finally coming down a little bit, relaxing into this new place that is to be our home, and now, with the extra time and space, comes the payback for all the changes that we’ve gone through? Whatever the case, it’s emotionally exhausting.

The turmoil, stress, and angst is about to be increased, too (more on this soon), so we have a ways to go before we can truly settle and adjust.

But we will (I trust). And soon (I hope).


  • Misha

    Having been raised overseas as an MK (until I was 21 and in some tough locations…) and then I worked with the same organization overseas as an adult and newly married and then with a baby I have been following your journey and praying hard. You guys are navigating this like pros! Huge hugs. Be so kind to yourself – most people have no concept of how that hard that cross cultural shock is. I am greatly amazed and impressed with you!

  • Mountaineer

    From a Bob Hope movie, the only one I ever saw: Husband and wife became stranded in a cave. Husband says, "I guess now we have to learn to live together."

  • Suburban Correspondent

    Hang in there. I remember finding it hard just moving to a different state! You don't realize how many things you have on autopilot and how that helps you survive until it is taken away from you. And then it feels as if you are burning up all your brain synapses just to do the standard, needed-for-survival tasks.

    Cold showers? Oh, no! Our water heater wasn't working properly for about a week, and it almost broke me.

  • Carol S-B

    Isn't it funny how it's only when they feel safe and secure, they will really fall apart? Held it all together reasonably… and now, k'pow!
    My experience with cultural immersion was in India… no showers, but a tepid bucket of water and a cup to wash off with. Just there in the middle of the bathroom, no shower stall. It is tough, isn't it? I remember how grateful I was that the Family bought toilet paper for me; they didn't use it, used water instead. Very clean: just different.
    Eating with your hands, no utensils, and respectfully finishing everything on your plate (how's that for a metaphor!) And the language, isolation, feeling so… different, out of your element.
    But we are all people. And you have a wonderful way of hanging on to that fact. Thank goodness the kiddos have a physical outlet now. And you ALL are dealing superbly well with all you can handle, right now. This day, this minute.
    You're right: you are going this alone, and that is the hard truth. Your foreshadowing (more turmoil) is disquieting. You have people (Hey there!) rooting for you, empathizing… but what you need, the tools, the will, knowlege and determination? that, you have. It's right there inside you.

  • Mama Pea

    I think the transition would be hard if it were just you and your hubby. Throw in four kiddlies of varying ages and . . . oh, my. You're carrying a big load. Why do moms always feel it's their responsibility to make sure all (EVERYTHING!) goes well? Like I said, you're carrying a big load. Sending support in spirit.

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