My Reverse Culture Shock…I am struggling to deal!

14 May

I never took stock of what culture shock could do to someone until I was able to compare my culture shock in China to my reverse culture shock to when I returned stateside. In fact, experiencing culture shock in China brought out the anger in me. I would complain about the way people stared or laughed so openly at me. They would come up and stroke my arms (which are super bare…yes, I mean not one hair) and claim how soft my skin was…without permission. Once, I was asked if they could lick my arm to see if I tasted like chocolate…ummm YUCK! and No Thanks!

Oh! almost lost my train of thought….ok, so in the past 10 months I have experienced such extreme depression, which I have never shared with anyone. All of my family, friends and co-workers know is that I miss China…very, very, very much.

What they may not know is that I have become disenchanted with life in America and why that is so.

Before you characterize me as unpatriotic, it is not that at all. My eyes have just been opened to the fact that no matter how much freedom we have in America, there is another form of bondage that arises, whether it be internal or external. I am disenchanted by the lack of security I feel not being around outsiders, but insiders, some people of this very land. I am disenchanted and frankly overwhelmed by the medical system here. I am shocked by the hits I am getting financially and the constant struggle to keep mine and my family’s head above water, as opposed to when I was living abroad, rent was paid by the company, medical bills were covered by insurance and if there was anything to pay, even for a major surgery, it was almost pennies on the dollar.

Political turmoil did not touch us…in fact if things were happening around us politically, we were blissfully unaware. As long as we were living right, not doing anything to break the laws of the land, we had an easy living. I keep asking why I can’t “get that loving feeling” here in America? Why was I feeling so helpless, claustraphobic and often angry at the immediate world around me? It didn’t seem to make much sense…I mean, I was home!

Recently, with the help of a friend, an experienced, life-long traveller, I discovered that I was experiencing reverse culture shock. “According to the Marquette University Office of International Education: Study Abroad website, reverse culture shock is “an emotional and psychological stage of re-adjustment, similar to your initial adjustment to living abroad.” The chance of experiencing culture shock increases the longer you’re away from your home culture and the easier you adapt to your host culture.”–Shelly D. Lane, Ph.D

To better understand my extreme longing for my host country, here is a post I recently penned on Facebook…which baffled some, angered some, while others totally understood where I was coming from:

I miss China….How can it be that I lost my heart to a country that doesn’t belong to me? I long to go back and see her countryside, her skyscrapers that are mile high, the look of awe (or shock) on people’s face when it registers that they are seeing a black person face-to-face, to dance in the square at night working up a healthy sheen of sweat, walking hand-in-hand with my love by my side and the boys running wild with our puppy nipping at their heels playfully…oh how I miss the simple life that is China.

Here’s to hoping for a cure for my longing….until next time.

My every day walk of shame

23 May

Every morning I wake up and turn off my alarm 10 minutes before it rings. I go through my routine of waking up my son, preparing myself then proceed to the kitchen to rummage through the cupboards for “breakfast”.

After breakfast, we run out to try and call the elevator…praying fervently that it will be empty going down all 27 floors.

Not gonna happen.

We walk outside and immediately all eyes turn to us. I feel like I am walking with a poop stain on my butt…no ….no it’s the morning after and I just got caught….being an expat!!! My scary walk of shame. Not even sure why I am ashamed. Is it because of my short, curly hair when everyone else has long, straight , black hair? Or maybe it’s the absence of my almond-shaped eyes, thick lips and large rump.

No, I think it’s because of my smooth, silky chocolate skin. It makes their jaws drop, their eyes twitch and their fingers point as they laugh uncontrollably.

Yes, this has been my every day walk of shame for over 3 years. I think it’s time I get on home. 

I am ANGRY!!…..and I need not be

22 May

I woke up this morning feeling angry. I walked to the bus stop feeling angry. Got on the crowded bus angry.

I was very angry at China this morning.

Angry at the people because I have to carefully watch where I step as I walk for fear that I will step in human waste and green, bloody phlegm among other things. Angry because even though you patiently wait for the bus and it stops right in front of you, someone will come and shove you and your kid out of the way so they can go in first. Nevermind that the bus is so packed people are almost hanging out of the windows and coming in through the back doors.

Mostly, I was angry because as close as we are to getting out of here, the one obstacle standing in our way is so threatning, it makes me feel helpless. I am angry that no matter what I do or say, the visa process is still so annoyingly hard. I am angry at the prospect of staying here another year…well, staying in Chongqing. Although I have many choices in cities, at this late stage in the game, it may be too difficult for me to secure a teaching position in a desirable international school.

I realize the visa process is just that…a process. For weeks now I have been trying in my own strength to guide it. I became angry when I realized I only briefly sent up a prayer when I woke up this morning. I didn’t take the time to talk to God properly. Why? Because I am feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. So, instead of starting the day on a positive note, I started on a negative. I wasn’t a good example for my son as we walked on those dirty, slippery and crowded sidewalks. Words that shot out of my mouth, daggers that cut down the local people staring at us open-mouthed and gestures showing them I could be just as ignorant….were not a positive learning experience for my son. I was not a picture of Christianity.

Therefore, I have decided to re-examine myself. I have decided, to let go and let God when it comes to the visa process. I have decided to have more than one word with my Father when He allows me to open my eyes and see another day. I have decided to repent for my unfounded anger. I was angry…and I need not be.

How the Dukan Diet Works

11 Apr

About to allack this starting on Monday with a group of my girlfriends!!

FAMILY MEETINGS

29 Mar

celestereille-thetiredexpat:

Struggling with my blended family. Hope this will help me in the immediate future and hope it will help you as well.

Originally posted on The Parenting Construction Site:

How is your family dynamic? Are your methods of conflict resolution working? Family meetings work- especially if you want to create a ‘team’ atmosphere. Children as young as three can and should participate. It is an excellent method of communication and resolution when done on a regular basis. I have used it with my own family and as the administrator of Maple Leaf Montessori School, my Elementary staff has had great success using the ‘Community Meeting’ model.

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I will Survive

12 Mar

celestereille-thetiredexpat:

I came in willingly into my current post. Now I am gritting my teeth just to get through the last 4 months. If it wasn’t for the Lord, who is on my side at every turn, I would’ve turn tail and run. I really enjoyed reading this post from Cortland Jones. I now realized that perhaps this is a lesson in humility from God that I MUST pass if I want Him to work for me in getting me into the ideal school community. I too will survive….but only with God on my side.

Originally posted on Empowered to Teach By Grace:

‘To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.’

– Colossians 1:29 NIV

For the past two years I have been blessed to work in what I consider to be an ideal school community. It is by no means perfect, but being here takes me back to where I started my career when I worked in what was considered the ‘country club,’ of middle schools in 1992. 22 years later, after transitioning to 3 different school communities within the past 4 years, I have returned to a ‘country club’ school community where I am currently. In 2010, my first year back in the classroom, I transitioned from an ideal position outside the classroom into a school community regarded as a ‘turnaround school.’ The stress alone associated with working there, I considered to be ‘two week’s worth of stress in one.’

In the fall…

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Brokenhearted fools foolishly in love or cultural disaster

4 Mar

I was recently reminded of a sad encounter I had with a young Chinese mother in a crowded Women’s Hospital. I was at the hospital waiting to be called on. Now, if you’ve ever been to a Chinese Hospital you will know that each doctor has about 300 or more patients to see in the day. A waiting room becomes something like a Hostel for the suffering!

This young woman about my age moved and sat next to me when she saw my husband Jaison sitting next to me with his hand tightly gripping mine. Her first words were broken English, shyly passing between her lips while her eyes were cast down, but I understood. Mind you, my husband and I are an interracial couple and it is somewhat rare to see a black woman with a Chinese man. I guess she felt inspired.

She went on to tell me about how she met a Nigerian man 7 years prior and fell head over heels in love. Her family strongly opposed the relationship. So much so, they forced her to marry someone of their choosing from her hometown. Since that time, she has battled depression until present. The man she married claimed he didn’t love her, but wanted to have a baby.

ImageAs I obsorbed all of this information and heartwrenching story from a perfect stranger, she dropped the craziest question: “What should I do?”  I was completely baffled and taken aback. She asked my advice because she spent 7 years looking for this Nigerian man. At the time of me hearing her story, she had tracked him down to a medical school in America. She had not yet tried to contact him. I told her perhaps it just wans’t meant to be and that she should try to learn how to love her husband and to teach her husband how to love her. She cried a lot right there in the hospital telling me her story and hearing my lame advice.

Our names were called. Before parting ways, we exchanged phone numbers and I told her I would pray for her.

Almost 2 years later, she happily sent me a Wechat (Weixin) message that she had found him. He was married and living in Africa. She wanted to go see him to see if he still loved her. I was shocked and didn’t know what to tell her at this point. I could only hope she would think about the ripple effects of her choices. Perhaps one day I will hear from her again. Not sure how I hope her story will end…just that her heart will somehow mend.

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