It’s been almost three months now. Looking back, it’s hard to remember the first few weeks and our general state of overwhelm with a new culture, new surroundings, and new language. Not that it’s over–not by a long shot! But we’re getting more comfortable and beginning to figure out the flow of life in this segment of the world. If you’ve never experienced it before, I’ll try to demonstrate with a few examples how it feels to make a home in a new culture.
#1) The Empty Pen Holder
We’re all familiar with the overflowing pen holder on the desk, “junk drawers” littered with spare writing implements, and the day you clean out the car and discover a gold mine of freebie pens in the glove compartment. And no matter how hard you try to reduce the population, it just keeps growing. Every time we move, I clean out our extra pens, saving only our favorites. This time, I kept just three or four of the best, thinking it would be silly to cart fifty pens across the ocean. Maybe it was a mistake. I have yet to meet a free pen in Asia-Pacific. For about three weeks, we were constantly searching for those three or four pens that were never in the right place at the right time. Eventually we had the presence of mind to buy a few more, but it has taken these whole three months to fill up the pen holder to the point of feeling “normal.” Now, every time I look at my twenty-or-so pens sitting in the container on the desk, I feel a sense of comfort and belonging.
#2) Finding the “Right” Toilet Paper
With every move until now, we’ve been within easy driving distance of a Super Walmart. Even though there are always things to get familiar with in a new city or State, having a local Walmart brings a little cohesion to life. If you’ve been to one Walmart, you’ve been to every Walmart. So everywhere we moved, we could depend on finding our favorite paper products. Imagine moving to a new country with totally different brands, unreadable (to us) labels, and a general lack of two-ply toilet paper! We have now become Asia-Pacific TP connoisseurs and are happy to announce that we have found our favorite brand. We always try to keep an extra package in stock (just in case the store shelf is empty on shopping day).
#3) Growing Comfortable with Local Traffic Patterns
So far, my most embarrassing moment in Asia-Pacific was the time I screamed in a taxi because I was SURE we were about to run into a moving bus. All the other passengers (including my husband) thought I was crazy, and handled the situation very coolly. In fact, to them, it wasn’t a “situation” at all…just normal driving. I’m slowly learning to trust (almost) every driver. And no, we did not hit the bus.
#4) Preferring Hot Sauce to Ketchup
At a local restaurant recently, Titus and Ivan were served an order of French Fries with small bowls of ketchup and hot sauce side-by-side. We thought Titus would regret accidentally dipping his first fry into the hot sauce, but not so. With wide eyes he exclaimed, “I like it better than ketchup!” and continued to eat the rest of his fries with the orange dip.
#5) Feeling Cold
Admittedly, I haven’t reached this milestone yet. But maybe someday I’ll actually feel chilly when I walk into an air conditioned building or when the sun goes down on our equatorial jungle. I’ve heard it happens to some people. In fact, just today Ivan broke out into goosebumps in a mildly air conditioned building!
As much as it feels great to be more comfortable in our host culture, to have some pictures on the wall, a comfortable rug on the floor, and the scent of a pumpkin spice candle burning in the family room, these are not the things that make us truly at home in any culture. We don’t want to fool ourselves into a false sense of belonging just because we’ve managed to surround ourselves with a few familiar things. Pray for us as we navigate the slippery slope of making a home in this world while also keeping our eyes on our true home in Heaven. No matter what discomforts or sacrifices are required, pray that our hearts’ deepest desire would be to live in total service to the King.