I really tried to prepare.
I read blogs and sought counsel from veteran missionaries.
But I still ended up crying over biscuits.
I felt silly and was totally embarrassed, but what could I do? And I am not alone. Others have cried over toothpaste or shampoo or leftovers at Golden Corral. Some just walked out of the store empty-handed.
It's more real... and more gripping than I ever imagined.
Welcome to the vicious world of
reverse culture shock.
Crying Over BiscuitsI always imagined my tears would be over cheddar cheese... beautiful, yummy, yellow cheddar cheese. The precious block of golden treasure! I miss it when we don't have it on our field. We just went through a long shortage of cheddar cheese. Imagine being deprived of its valuable presence! And when we have it, we have an overwhelming selection of... two. That's it. Two choices. White or yellow.
But in the States? There is an entire aisle dedicated to its lovely existence. Shredded, sliced, block, sharp, mild, big bags, little bags... not to mention several brands! The shelves are beautifully glowing like gold fashioned any way you want it! Surely the sight would be so happy that tears would flow. Wonderful, happy tears of gratitude.
My reverse culture shock moment wasn't like this... um... fairy tale.
We had traveled all day, and I was tired. There was a group of our family with us, and the ladies were all going shopping for the week. It was my first time shopping in the grocery section since our return. We decided to go to Walmart. My mother-in-law worked hard dividing the long list up, grouped by location... divide and conquer. It was a great plan.
When we got to Walmart, she handed me a list. As I began looking over my list, I looked up to realize... I was alone... in Walmart. Everyone had gone their separate ways to get their portion of shopping done.
Now, if you know anything about reverse culture shock, this was a set-up for disaster. I was tired. I was alone. And I was in a large, unfamiliar store.
Panic started to set in, and I don't even know why. I tried to relax. After all, it's just shopping, right? So I looked down at my list. Fresh fruits and vegetables were at the top, and I was in that section already.
I was in that very,
very large section.
fruits and veggies
On the field, I had gotten used to shopping at our little closet-sized shops. The entire fruit stand could fit on the average kitchen table. The same kitchen table could showcase every vegetable from our veggie stand. I had gotten used to small stores with few choices. There in Walmart, the selections were endless! Twenty of my usual shops could fit in just that section! I calmed myself by just focusing on my list. Bananas... I buy bananas all the time. I thought, "That's easy. I'll start with bananas."
I walked over to the bananas. Well, they looked like bananas, but certainly not like the bananas I had shopped for in the last 3 1/2 years. These bananas were huge and smooth and green and pale yellow. My bananas on the field are tiny, dark yellow, and speckled with brown. On the field, I walk up and let the store owner know if I am eating the bananas today or tomorrow. Then she grabs the bananas that meet the need, bags them, and gives me my total. Standing here in Walmart, I found that I had forgotten how to choose good bananas in America. Surely these smooth, beautiful, big bananas couldn't be ready to be eaten! Where were the speckles?!
And the stress level kept rising.
"Nectarines... Maybe nectarines would be good. Do I like nectarines? I can't remember! We don't have nectarines! Peaches... I think we all like peaches. How do I choose peaches? Our peaches are green. These don't look green. I can't remember!"
And the stress level was boiling.
"Time to move on to the freezer foods before I lose it! Hmmm... freezer foods." I scanned over the list. "Frozen biscuits... well, that's a great idea! I always have to make my own biscuits and then freeze them."
So I head to the frozen breakfast food aisle. Frozen pancakes, frozen waffles, frozen ham and cheese biscuits, frozen sausage biscuits... I just wanted frozen biscuits! Plain ole frozen biscuits. Up and down the aisle I went, and stress was welling up in my eyes. I held back the tears. It had been twenty minutes, and I had barely scratched the surface of my list.
Up and down the aisle.... up and down... up and down... NOTHING! No frozen biscuits!
Just at that moment, my mom walked up.
"How is it going?" she asked. And before I knew it, the tears came gushing out. I told her I couldn't find the biscuits. And with every ounce of maternal love in her body, she took control and walked me through each aisle. After a few minutes, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law walked up and discovered the situation. Again, the tears flooded out, and I felt like a fool. I was crying over biscuits!
My mother-in-law admitted she didn't know what I was going through, but that she would be there to help. And she was! She didn't have to understand for her compassion to reach out to my need. Making the simplest decisions became overwhelming to me, and my mind just wanted to shut off. When they saw me struggle, they jumped in without hesitation. Sometimes they just made the decision for me. Sometimes they narrowed the choices down and gave me a chance to try. None of them had studied reverse culture shock, but somehow the Lord just directed them.
We checked out, and the nightmare was over.
Yesterday, I went to the store again. It was a much different experience. I learned from my mistakes. I went when I was feeling energetic and refreshed. I went when I had plenty of time, so I could go slowly and make decisions at my own pace. I went to a store where I used to shop all the time before we went to the field. I was familiar with the store's layout! I took someone with me who keeps me relaxed... my daughter! She walked calmly through every aisle with me.
I still felt overwhelmed at the selection and the number of choices, but I was able to keep the situation in context. After all, it's just a trip to the grocery store!
And the icing on the cake? As we were checking out, the cashier and the bagger were so friendly! They asked us how we were doing and chatted with us. They asked if we needed help getting the groceries to the car. They smiled and said, "Have a great day!"
So I did! And I even bought frozen biscuits and cheddar cheese. Beautiful, wonderful... cheddar cheese.
Me (sitting in church)- Gabriel, don't forget your tithes.
Gabriel grabs a tithing envelope, fills it out, and then begins to stuff his money in it.
Me- Um, Gabe, they don't take rupees here.
Gabe- They don't?!!!
Gabe- Mom, can I use the microwave at this time?
Ben- Gabe... it's America. There is electricity at all times.
Sometimes on the field, you miss births of new family members. We finally got to meet my cousin's baby girl for the first time. Something tells me she fits into our crazy, silly family just fine.
The Furlough 20
Let the battle of the "Furlough 20" begin!
It is commonly accepted that missionaries put on some weight during furlough. I really don't want to be in that statistic, so it's time to get busy! For one week while we traveled, we had access to a gym. Michaela and I worked out hard for five of the seven days.
Now to get the eating under control...
Sorry, Krispy Kreme. Our relationship has just taken a turn for the worse.
(Maybe we can have an occasional secret weekend rendezvous?)