A Day of Rest
We’ve been away from home about two weeks now. Things here are definitely different from home (working on a post with the details of that), but we haven’t really experienced culture shock. What we have experienced is culture stress: the stress that comes from extra effort speaking a different language, learning a new city, embracing a culture vastly different from our own, and establishing new ways of doing things (which almost always includes more time and effort than at home). We read a book called “Foreign to Familiar” and it is one of the best cross-cultural books I have ever read. I did some work in grad school on crossing the “bridges” between cultures (ethnicities, educational values, economic status, etc), but this is the best summary of everything in “layman’s terms” (educators know what I’m talking about; sifting through the EduSpeak vocab seems so silly when everything can be simplified!).
Today is the first day that we have had for complete resting as a family. This morning we were antsy to “do” something since we’ve been on the go since we left home, but we are allowing the quiet that comes with an unplanned day to take over. That, and Caleb is finally taking a decent nap after 4 days of refusing to nap. Oye.
We don’t have any type of living room or couch to use, so I’m sitting at the kitchen table typing as the sounds of children playing, nearby radios, and the washing machine fill the air. It’s one of those moments that I want to be able to soak in and always remember. For this one moment, I don’t feel out of place here.
And then I’ll have to go downstairs for something and remember why I can’t quite feel settled here when it takes all my energy just to breathe going up seven stairs. My body was not made for this altitude.
Quite often, I find it difficult to know what to write about. We are absorbing so many new things and so much information on any given day that what little energy I have left goes towards synthesizing that. It’s only in the quiet moments like this that my brain can process which words to share.
We’ve decided the largest paradox, by far, has been house hunting online while we are here. The thought of having a house just for our family, with heat and running water is overwhelming. To have a garage and a yard as well, wow, do we feel like we’ve won the lottery! We have a few houses in the mix, but nothing is set yet since our internet is unreliable and we’ve had a frustrating time of keeping in touch with our real estate agent. But God already knows where we will live, so I won’t waste precious energy on that.
Last night we were thinking about all that we have accomplished in two weeks:
- We arrived here in a decent amount of time – since then, there have been 40km of highway made impassable by roadblocks of rocks and thorny bushes
- We have a general idea of the layout of the city – this is only possible because of advice/lessons from our friends here
- We have both gained confidence in our Spanish-speaking abilities
- We have been able to cook for ourselves – when we first arrived, going to the markets alone scared me, so I anticipated going out to eat a lot
- Keith ran the clinic with a Bolivian med school graduate for three days while Steve & Francisco (the other clinic doc) were out of town
- Becky got to talk to some Civil Engineers about clean water projects they are working on here in Bolivia as well as other places in Latin America and Haiti. It was really fun to meet some other non-Bolivians since they came from the U.S., Ecuador, Britain, and Australia.
It’s difficult to even process all that has happened since we arrived, hence the necessity for a day to rest.
One thing I have appreciated is the break from technology. We really only use the internet to check emails, post photos, and keep in touch with family. We have no TV and only brought some DVDs for Caleb (for those inconsolable, nap-less days that are inevitable). I have almost finished a book in the last 5 days. I don’t remember the last time I read that much! I am reading “Three Cups of Tea” and it is so encouraging to learn about other people’s cross-cultural experiences and how it’s more important to care for each other than focus on our differences. It’s a must read for everyone (especially if you have any interest in the Middle East, NGOs, or mountaineering).
One last thought: Eunice (my Spanish tutor) made hot arroz con leche y canela (rice with milk, but steamed and frothy) yesterday and it was amazing. I definitely need to learn how to make that as well as salteñas (an Argentine dish).