Dan, Heather, Jeremiah, Emma, Claire, Levi, Josie and baby Jane

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Culture Shock



The Tenwek Girls Boarding School






The Passion Fruit Flower: exotic, unexpected and new.



During our excellent training at MTI last October, we were warned that, at about three months after arrival in country, a transition ensues. The first few months after arrival are more like a honeymoon, the experiences new and exciting, and charged with endorphins. Relationships with nationals are rich and forgiving of cultural differences. Then slowly, the reality of life in a very different country sets in, and what once was exciting becomes puzzling, and what was new becomes old. Cultural differences which were originally fascinating become frustrating, and you begin to ask yourself, “what are they thinking?” For instance, we have the pleasure of living directly across from the Tenwek Elementary Girls Boarding School, which houses and educates what seems to be hundreds of squealing, happy, pre-adolescent girls. Every night at 10:30pm, while I am trying to enter sleep after a long day in theater, in a bedroom that is literally a stone’s throw from the school, there emanates loud talking, laughing, screaming, whistling, pounding, jumping and all sorts of other mayhem. Eventually everyone tires out, and things quiet down…until 5:15am, when I am unpleasantly awakened to the sound of desks screeching across a tile floor as they are being moved back to a locale they should have never left in the first place, a sound that is akin to nails on a chalkboard, or the old alarm clocks of the 1980’s. I am so perplexed as to how anyone can function on such sparse sleep, especially children, as our kids need about 10 hours per night (Jeremiah would sleep 14 if we let him). Deciding I needed to get to the bottom of this, today, I asked one of my Kenyan OR staff what on earth they are doing so early in the morning, and he informed me that the kids wake up every day at 4:30, have some time to freshen up and get ready for the day, and promptly begin school at 5:15am. And, if their marks on the Kenyan national exams are poor, their punishment is more study, more often, and earlier in the morning, including Saturdays…all without any regard of the law of diminishing returns.

What we are experiencing (with this, and other untold stories) is culture shock, which can take variety of forms depending on personality: anger, frustration, sadness, depression, anxiety, panic, fear, apathy, feeling overwhelmed, addictions, obsessions with familiar objects, and physical symptoms such as indigestion, hypertension, and headaches. Some people in missions never recover from culture shock, and this brings them home prematurely. But others work through this inevitable phase, and emerge a changed person, a mix unlike either culture, much like two flavors that become something totally new when mixed together. There is no way to avoid culture shock, but knowing the manifestations and understanding that it is normal, is the key to surviving.

Would you please pray for us during this time of transition? Thanks.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.



4 comments:

davesonya said...

D + H + kids,
we truly are praying you through this time, especially after "watching" Josh & Brin go through similar stuff.
hang on to the hope that you are obeying. that you are in the place of growth for you & your beautiful family.
stand strong in your faith.
our love~
Sonya & Dave & family

Heidi Kennedy said...

Dan and family,
I pray for you everyday. I thought it was so great that Dan Sr. and Lois Galat got to come and be with you over there. You will definitely be a changed man and family after this experience. My suggestion for sleep would be to find alternative sleeping arrangements when you are feeling the severe sleep deprivation. We come from a culture where 8-10 hours a night is considered normal and naps are great! Maybe take a cat nap down by the riverside! Praying for all of you. Thanks again for the updates!
Heidi Kennedy

Living Streams A/V said...

wow, they're up at kinkel time, thats when i get up everyday, usually at 4:15 when topher (cat) cries for food. We are praying for you guys as well.

Karen Jacobsen said...

Hi Dan and Heather,

Just stumbled upon your blog. Thinking of you and praying for you and the kids. Remembering your family fondly from our time at MTI!

Karen Jacobsen