We have officially passed our 1-year mark as a foreign service family. Scott started A-100 (orientation/training) on March 9 of last year. CRAZY!
There is a lot of talk about culture shock in the foreign service. There are entire courses and classes dedicated to helping families prepare for the culture shock and adjustment that will take place with a move overseas. I’ve seen so many charts and read so many articles about the honeymoon phase, anger, acceptance, and culture shock. It’s been an interesting experience to have all this information and then take a step back and watch how my life falls into these chart and articles.
According to the chart we should be well into the “normal functioning” phase of the adaptation cycle. I do think that holds true for us. Our day-to-day life is just normal and some the inconveniences or differences about life here have disappeared as a part of life. We’ll have to be on the lookout for that “possible second episode” that could be upon us in a few months.
I feel like since being here in Kingston I haven’t had a moment where I bottomed out. I feel like I have been able to remain really positive and take things as learning experiences rather than frustrations. I was telling my colleagues “I haven’t cried since we’ve been here!!” as if it’s the biggest accomplishment of my life! It is! To clarify, I have cried but not about being here. I do think I experienced, and continue to experience, culture shock but not in a negative way. It is difficult to be thrown into another culture and way of life and have to figure it out as you go but it’s also exciting to expand, learn, and grow.
I think the lowest point for me was actually in Washington DC. Our apartment in DC was amazing – I loved it. But when we walked in and looked around I just sat down on the couch and sobbed. and sobbed and sobbed. I didn’t understand how this could ever feel like home or normal. I had that “what in the heck are we doing!!?? Are we completely out of our minds?!” moment. It was hard. I wanted to get back in the car and drive 5 more days back from where we came from. I felt guilty for taking the baby away from her grandparents and cousins. What will be “home” to my daughter? WHEN will I feel okay with what is happening?? I don’t even know where I will be living this time next year. Am I sure I want to do this? WHY CAN’T I STOP CRYING!? There were so many emotions. The fact that I was 5 weeks postpartum may have had something to do with the emotional breakdown.
However, when you are living in Washington DC, and across the street from some really good pizza, it’s hard to feel down for long and things got better quickly. I was expecting myself to have some sort of the same reaction when we arrived in Kingston but surprisingly I didn’t. I feel like we had prepared ourselves well and had the right expectations before arriving. There has definitely been an adjustment period and frustrating experiences but it’s all worked together to help us learn about our new home and our new life.
As frustrations, annoyances, anger, disengagement (and whatever else psychology says I’m going to experience) come I just let the words of Bob Marley run through my veins.
“Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing is gonna be alright”