Thoughts on Culture Shock, 11 months in

Recently I’ve been watching a lot more movies thanks to one of my new housemates. I caught myself the other day making a fuss about nothing when one of the characters drank a glass of water straight from the sink. I couldn’t believe they had just filled their glass from the tap and drank it! But then I remembered that’s what I use to do when I lived in the States. That’s always been my reality before I came to Tanzania.

I’ve been here in Arusha for 11 months. For those without math skills, that’s only 1 month shy of a year. A YEAR living overseas.

Before I came to East Africa the first time, the ministry I was working with had a week of “cross cultural prep”. One of the things that was repeated over and over, and that I have since held onto is “it’s not weird it’s just different.” I find this crossing my mind over and over again. Sometimes days pass when I don’t think about it, but then I see a man holding a goat on a motorcycle, or the lady selling chickens out of the trunk of a car, and I remind myself it’s not weird, it’s just different.

Or maybe even deeper, it’s when someone says they’ll be here on Monday to fix something and then they call on Wednesday and say they’re at the gate and I’m not home. Or when I get a ridiculously deep craving in the depths of my stomach for Mexican food, that doesn’t exist here. Or when my Swahili skills run out and I can no longer communicate and so I just stare blankly and try with all my might to understand.

I was reading this article at Velvet Ashes and it defined culture shock with these four levels,  “1) “Yippee! I’m here.” 2) “Whatever was I thinking?” 3) “I can do this.” 4) “It’s beginning to feel like home.” To be honest, I feel like I go back and forth between a lot of these, but honestly I feel I sit around number 4 often. It’s beginning to feel like home.

As I was editing this last night to post the electricity went out, and stayed out for the night. Welcome to life in Tanzania.