Meaning: Everything will be okay. I’ll do my best to try to explain. I am no doubt having an amazingly fabulous life-changing experience here. I am, however, in the second stage of culture shock. We were prepped on culture shock in our initial training in Kutaisi, but I didn’t realize until my second night in Zugdidi how very real this notion is.
Stage 1) Initial Euphoria (Honeymoon Period) - Anything new is intriguing and exciting! For all of us, this was the energy and excitement for our new journey prior to leaving the country. When we got to training in Kutaisi and complained about having to use squatters to go to the bathroom and losing water and power on a daily basis, Nino warned us that while we thought this was culture shock—we had NO idea what was to come on the day we had to leave Kutaisi for our host families. You see, most of the volunteer teachers are similar. We’re extroverted and adventure-seeking. How do I know? Because we all left behind our friends, family, and life behind to experience something new and foreign. While not many of us came knowing others, I can assume that (much like myself) we are all easy to make friends. Well, because it’s easy to make friends from strangers when the strangers you meet speak the same language.
Stage 2) Irritation and Hostility (Culture Shock) – A participant feels homesick and has a negative attitude towards the host culture. And here I am in Georgia, waking up every day to a family talking in the living room in a tongue I cannot understand and sitting at a dinner table wishing desperately to add to conversation I cannot easily join. I’m in my dark place. I do not want to come home, and while I sink into my bed at night—my head heavy and my eyes red and swelled with tears—I am still assured that this too shall pass. And so I apologize for taking a break for a few days from blogging. As I was walking through the botanical garden the other night wearing fear like a scarlett letter, I was thinking what a shame it would be that I would have to lie to all of my readers about how perfect everything is when in reality I feel so far from myself. And so I thought back to my purpose for creating a blog in the first place, which is to share this year—my real and sometimes scary journey—with the people who mean so very much to me. So that’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I’m in my dark place: lonely, terrified, and frustrated that I can’t communicate to the people around me who I am and what I’m about. It’s nothing to worry about and I surely don’t want anyone reading to be concerned. Culture shock is very real and expected when someone/anyone chooses to live abroad instead of merely visiting. I can say that I’m looking forward to the time when Stage 3 has kicked in, though.
Stage 3) Gradual Adjustment – A participant starts to adjust and the local culture seems more familiar.
Stage 4) Adaptation and Biculturalism - A participant is completely adjusted to the host culture and may even experience Reverse Culture Shock upon his/her return to their home country.
What are the signs of Culture Shock? A participant is experiencing anxiety, lack of self-confidence, panic attacks, loss of initiative and spontaneity, excessive anger over minor things, strong desire to associate with people of the participant’s nationality, isolation. Yep. Check, check, check, check. I’m self-diagnosed :)
And so I’ll leave you with what’s been getting me through these few days (other than Yevgeniy):
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand” –Isaiah 41:10
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” –Joshua 1:9
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” –Psalm 90:17
So with that, I remember my mission and purpose for packing up my life to live on the other side of the world for a year: I’m here to do good work and to make a difference teaching in a school where I am desperately needed. I’m here to teach, learn, and grow as a professional and as a woman. Bring it on, dark place!
Qvelaperi kargad iqneba!