Showing posts from December, 2014

A Mildly Hyperbolic Account of Cultural Adjustment

Adjusting to another culture is exhausting.

If you've never gone through the experience of being put into a new place with new people and new cultural rules and expectations and a new language, you really can't understand how exhausting it is.

Everything wears you out.

And I mean, everything.

Each day (ideally) starts with a fresh burst of energy, and an optimistic resolve that today will be better. By afternoon, your mental capacities are fizzling and your energy is nonexistent. Maybe you take a nap, or maybe you push through. Seemingly regardless of your choice, evening finds you as a mindless, motionless specter of a once-intelligent human being. You drag yourself into bed with the fatal knowledge that tomorrow is another day.

Oh. joy.

By the end of two weeks, you're ready to burst into tears if one more person asks you a question. You don't want to speak to anyone. Ever again. You don't want to step foot out of your house, you don't want to learn a new lang…

Advent: Love and Longing

I got homesick the other day.
I realized that I had missed the early winter season in Missouri. It is a harsh, cold time, with the frost-nipped lands ungraced by snow. The hills show their ribs in lines of dry, wind-flattened grass, and the trees are stripped dormant and bare. Most people complain about the 'ugliness', but I am in love with the raw honesty of an unconcealed landscape. 
And I miss it.

Then I started thinking about my family; the kind, funny, honest people who've helped shape me into the person I am...and the person I will be. The inevitable changes will come to them - some already have - and I can't be there to laugh or cry with them, to offer my support, advice, or love. Their lives go on without my presence, just as they should, but it hurts that they can't stop and wait for me, that I can't just come home and pick up the pieces of the way things used to be. A part of me is glad to be out on my own, following a different path, but the other pa…

Where One or Two Are Gathered


Jariel wakes me up, as she does most mornings. She and I have been sharing a bed, since we are currently short on bedroom space. This will change once our apartment's previous renters finish moving their things out of the third bedroom. In the meantime, though, I've enjoyed having an alarm clock that smiles sweetly at me and asks, "I get up now?"
I get up, make it into the bathroom before anyone else, and get ready for the day. On the way to the kitchen to get Jariel her 'm-milk', I glance in at Jon and Dino, one of the guys from the media team at Peniel, our partner church here in Beira. They pulled an all-nighter to finish a video of the Peniel youth conference that ended yesterday, and they're sitting exactly where I left them when I went to bed last night. They're even laughing over the same video clip of Pastor Mario cheering over the outcome of the conference attendees' futboll (soccer) match. It's a little surreal, and makes me …

Monday Night on the Verandah

This is the short and precious time between dusk and dark.
A good breeze keeps the mosquitoes at bay.
There is just enough light out here on the verandah for me to write. I like this little fourth-floor verandah, with its bird's-eye views across the neighborhood. I'm at eye level with the top floors of two other apartment buildings. They look very cozy, with light spilling out through the windows - curtained and otherwise - and a few bits of washing fluttering on the lines like half-neglected signal flags spelling out 'home'.

It's a Monday, so everyone is recovering from the late, loud weekend nights and returning to normal life. Surprisingly, even for a Monday night, the only music within hearing range is our own; a Christmas playlist on Carla's computer. No techno, rap or Bollywood soundtracks tonight, except for snatches from a passing car. Everyone seems to be enjoying either a quiet evening in (I can see the lights of several TV screens from here) or an equa…

Thanksgiving in Moz.

It started with a realization: Thanksgiving's coming up really soon, isn't it?

Progressed to plans and strategies: How do we cook a Thanksgiving meal with two burners and no oven?

Then there was the shopping: Chickens, celery, pumpkin, spices.

Whom to invite? Innocencio and Fifi, two friends from church who have been coming over for English lessons.

Then Thanksgiving day actually arrived.

Carla worked culinary magic... ...with a little bit of help. During the afternoon, operations came to halt and we waited around to visit with this apartment's previous renter. We waited. And waited. She never did appear, but Jariel, the pink cat and I occupied ourselves with Skip-Bo.  Innocencio and Fifi showed up, and I promptly forgot about the existence of my camera. Portuguese does weird things to my brain. I have no photographic evidence to prove it, but Fifi, Carla and I had a great time in the kitchen. Fifi and I read children's books to each other (Go, Dogs, Go! and a Portugue…