Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Training, Traveling, Tears

It’s been a year and a half since I left the US and up ‘til now I have not experienced culture shock as experts have described it. Of course, I have had some adjustments to make, but have adaptable fairly quickly to nearly everything that has come down the pike. I really thought I was the exception; the one to escape the cycle that I was warned about when transitioning to another culture. Culture Shock...the sense of euphoria and wonderment in a new culture followed by a slow descent into disappointment, discouragement, loneliness, grief, and disillusion with the culture, and finally the upward ascent again into embracing the reality (both good and bad) of your new situation. Secretly, I had believed that none of this would apply to me because I was 100% sure that I had already accepted and embraced China for the good bad and the ugly. I had already grieved the loss of family and friends when I left, so what more could there be to experience? That illusion was shattered this month after Ryan and Holly came to China to be part of a film/photography project promoting JianHua. I was the unofficial translator for the group, so I spent 3 weeks preparing travel language, familiarizing myself with specific areas of the country and planning some events following the project. Meeting the kids at the airport, I felt a rush of emotion seeing them for the first time in many months. All I could do was hug Ryan and cry...a mixture of joy and sorrow for the time I have missed with him and Holly, with Dave and Lacey all wrapped up in his embrace. Our traveling time was a combination of ups and downs, laughter and frustration, health and sickness. It was a refreshing rain to my thirsty soul that longed for some family time. It wasn’t until they left that I really understood the meaning of grieving in a way that I have not experienced before. In the aftermath of their departure, I suddenly realized that my role in my kids life was completely different. I was no longer ‘Mom’ in the sense of being the actively nurturing, protecting, guidance giving parent of former years, but I was now a detached outsider from the daily routines of their married life. Although they miss me and I missed them, they have in a very healthy way moved on, to to invest in their marriage and I to invest in my calling to China. It has been hard for me to wrap my mind around this fact, especially after spending most of their lives as a single parent. Fortunately, I had planned a short 3 day respite at Bethany House in Hong Kong before returning to Tianjin which turned out to be a godsend. There were pastoral staff there to talk with, there were quiet times for personal reflection and no one there to bother me or judge me for the things I was feeling. I know that I have not been the exception to the rule when it comes to culture has just taken me a little longer than others to feel it. When will I ascend from my grieving into true acceptance and serenity with this new 'Mom' role? I’m not sure, but if the experts are right, it will eventually happen. Until then I have no choice but to rest and trust that in due season I will again adjust and know that it is as it should be...and it will be well with my soul.