Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

Bright Lights, Big City: Reverse Culture Shock, Part 1 October 20, 2009

Filed under: Culture — Jen @ 3:49 am

All day today I’ve been sorting through boxes in my parents’ garage – stuff that I’d had in storage in Houston for three years.  One of the boxes I found was full of about ten years’ worth of journals.  Who knew I used to journal so much?  I skimmed through a couple and came across this entry from December 19, 2000, written in the airport in Houston on my way back to Michigan for Christmas after three months in a village in Honduras:

“I have a headache from watching people walk by.  Everyone is moving so fast.  And they probably don’t need to get anywhere that fast.  I used to walk fast.  This is the land of cell phones.  Everyone is in their own little world.  All these people together and very little personal interaction.

I almost cried after I ate because I threw part of my pizza away.  It’s fine to tell kids to eat their dinner because of starving children in the world, but I actually know those children.  I remembered sharing my meal at church on Saturday with Doris’ son and Leslie.  And now I threw that pizza away.  At the very least a cat could have eaten it.  So much is wasted here.  It makes me sad.”

I recall flying through Houston again after my year in Honduras was up and being overwhelmed by the amount of electricity used in the airport alone.  Lights and signs everywhere!  We had electricity only six hours a day, from a generator at the mission hospital.  I remember thinking that the electricity in the arrivals hall alone was more than we used in the entire village.

Every time I come back to the States from abroad, different things hit me.  When I was in London a month and a half ago, my friend and I took the train from her parents’ in the countryside where we had spent my first night, into London where she lives.  We arrived in Liverpool Station at 5pm, and I wanted someone to hold my hand to navigate the busy crowd and signs and noise and retail overwhelming me.  Marina knowingly looked at me and said, “You’re experiencing reverse culture shock right now, aren’t you?  I did too when I first got back.  So many people moving so fast, and I wondered how they all knew where they were going!”

Coming to the States I’ve been experiencing different levels of reverse culture shock at different times.  What hit me initially was all the technology.  It’s only been a little over a year since I was last in the States, but since then TV became digital and iPhone added 75,000 apps.  (And apps is a new word my brother had to teach me.)  Not only are TVs digital, but it seems they’re all huge now.  Or, like some friends I stayed with and my parents, the TVs look like computer monitors.  AND I found out you can get caller ID on your TV.  As if caller ID isn’t convenient enough, now you don’t even have to avert your eyes from your favorite TV program or sporting event.  Then there’s the technology that was around before I left or when I’ve been home on holiday before that I’m re-acquainting myself with.  Am I the only one who finds it strange that we can call people and watch TV on our computers, check emails and take pictures on our phones, watch movies and record film on our music-listening devices, and play music in the car simply by telling the stereo what track we want?

But after being in a developing country for nearly two years, I even find it strange that there are machines to wash AND dry clothes, machines to wash dishes, and machines that will suck up dirt off the floor.  We don’t need maids in this country because we have machines to do everything!

 

Oh The Places I’ve Been October 15, 2009

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 7:02 pm

In the past seven weeks I’ve traveled approximately 17,000 miles and slept in over 20 different beds.  Instead of writing about my travels, I’m posting one photo from each place that hopefully captures the essence of each visit.

Hampshire, England

Playing croquet in the English countryside

Playing croquet in the English countryside

London, part 1

Sunny days walking around

Sunny days walking around

Brighton, England

Sudanese iftar

Sudanese iftar

London, part 2

Reunions with good friends - the theme of all my travels

Reunions with good friends - the theme of all my travels

Detroit, Michigan, part 1

Feather bowling with Mike and Adam

Feather bowling with Mike and Adam

PJ Hoffmaster State Park, Michigan

Grilling hamburgers on a spatula because we had no grill top

Grilling hamburgers on a spatula because we had no grill top

Rockford, Michigan

Meeting new baby!

Meeting new baby!

Hudsonville, Michigan, part 1

Hanging out with my favorite kids

Hanging out with my favorite kids

Detroit, part 2 and Ann Arbor, Michigan

Visiting my very first teaching colleagues

Visiting my very first teaching colleagues

Wayne, Pennsylvania

Nabil (high school friend) and Katrina's wedding

Nabil (high school friend) and Katrina's wedding

Cincinnati, Ohio

Friends who are family

Friends who are family

Detroit, part 3 and Ann Arbor once again

Playing shuffleboard

Playing shuffleboard

Hudsonville, Michigan, part 2

Meeting new baby sister

Meeting even newer baby!

Chicago, Illinois

Quick visit with old friend

Quick visit with old friend

St. Paul, Minnesota

Moz reunion in Minnesota

Moz reunion in Minnesota

Orange City, Iowa

Family

Family

Allen, Texas

Oops, no pictures yet.

Houston, Texas, part 1

My photo in a gallery show:  "600 sq mi"

My photo in a gallery show: "600 sq mi"