When one goes abroad, there are always adjustment stages that must be faced.
The first, and most enjoyable stage, is the stage in which all seems new and exciting. Right when arriving in the new country, one is in a stage of constant bliss. Everything in the culture seems perfect, the food is great, the people are friendly, and life seems perfect.
After this stage, one moves into the dreaded stage of struggling with the culture. At this stage, the small things that never bothered you before are magnified and seem to constantly occur. Small things that were never noticed now seem to occur daily and “mess up” your life. Food that is unavailable is craved, home is missed, and an overall miserable feeling is experienced.
Finally, after a while, the small, bothersome things seem to diminish and the big cultural problems that used to haunt you seem to fade. It is at this time that one learns to appreciate the culture in which she is living, acknowledge the good and the bad, and live in the once foreign culture.
These past few days I have been wrestling with myself through the second phase of this transition. This past weekend, the program I am a part of traveled to a famous mountain in Shandong, China. After getting to the top, a deluge rushed over the mountain, forcing my group to have to walk back down the 7,000 slippery, rock steps to the bottom of the mountain. When arriving back at the hotel, we did not have time to shower, but were, instead, put on a bus for five more hours. We were freezing, hungry, sore, and tired. In addition to the colds we all received from this trip, I believe this trip made most of us involved in the program come to a breaking point.
After not finding the bus I needed yesterday, I was forced to take a taxi, which was then followed by me crying to the taxi driver about the difficulties I have faced this summer, especially over the weekend. As a note, this is not a culturally appropriate action in China, but, hallelujah, the taxi driver was a sweet man who assured me that my Chinese would improve and I had nothing to worry about.
Sitting in the hotel last night, I thought about the difficulties and joys I have faced here. I have had fun times, faced challenges, made close friends, and seen cultural brokenness. One of the most difficult things one will ever face is knowing how to take another culture in, balance the good and bad within this culture, and decide how to react to all this information. Right now, I have seen some good, a lot of brokenness, and am trying to learn how to act accordingly.
As of now, I do not have the answers, but I know that I am here for a reason. Just as the subtitle of my blog states: 塞翁失马。(For the background story, read one of my first blogs). In the end, though the old man in this story thought the circumstance he was in was awful, it ended up bringing him blessings. At this point, I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but must trust that it is there. The flowers always bloom after winter. Oh how I look forward to the spring!