Archive for the ‘general whining’ Category

Wow–what an amazing thing Google Books is!  I just found the chapter I wrote for a book on overseas teaching, including the description of my first visit to the oh-so-wonderful Cemberlitas hamam in Turkey. I reread the chapter, and it’s a great reminder: “This, too, shall pass….”


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Culture Stunned

Wikipedia: Culture Shock: Culture shock refers to the anxiety and feelings (of surprise, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion, etc.) felt when people have to operate within a different and unknown culture such as one may encounter in a foreign country ..

I have often thought that culture shock isn’t about the big changes. For an obvious example, the different attitudes towards women in the Middle East. One expects that and, while it’s certainly annoying, it’s not “shocking” in the sense of stunning the senses and emotions into disoriented overload.

No, I think culture shock stems from a series of little “stuns”; things you’re used to doing mindlessly, suddenly demand vast amounts of thought and energy. After an extended period of time, if you’re not consciously aware of the process, these little shocks to the system can add up to an impressive meltdown, worse because they’re so unanticipated.

Who would think that broom handles in Mongolia wouldn’t even reach the bottom of your navel, necessitating sweeping the vast expanse of uncarpeted floor in a crouched over hunch that sends the back into spasms?

Or last night I set my washing machine, with a number of buttons that would be the envy of a flight deck commander, all marked with highly cryptic symbols, to what I thought was a reasonable time. That was at 7 p.m. When I went to bed around 11, it was still going, but I figured it had to end soon. When I got up at 6:45…….it was still going!

Small details….but pile them up one after another and they can overwhelm you if you lose your sense of humor about it all!

Fortunately, my sense of humor is recovering. I had a pretty rough first few weeks; probably more rough because it was so unexpected. Seasoned old ex-pat me expected to breeze right in and settle. Live and learn. But I’m evening out now, which is good.

I bought a TV yesterday, and my joy at the prospect of having the cable hooked up today outweighed all sense of proportion to the event itself. Longing for the familiar.

My biggest stress factor has been the difficulty in shopping here. There are a few small stores in the compound for basics, but for fresh fruit and veg you have to go to Mercury market in town, which means going out and hailing a car, then trying to explain where you want to go. The though of dealing with this in -30 weather was quite daunting for me.

While talking to one of the other teachers here, she told me she hired a driver for 3 hours each Sunday to take her shopping and on any other errands. She offered to let me tag along with her for a few weeks; her driver, who speaks a little English, may even be willing to let me hire him on Saturdays for the same thing. All for about $5/hour. Bargain!

(We take a commercial break in this post to announce: The cable guy is here! Hooray!)

So to the few recipients of “melt down” emails, fear not! Thank you for being encouraging, and I am doing a LOT better. Today was the first day the entire faculty was back and I must say, a school, is a school, is a school! Meetings are meetings, and no matter where you are, teachers do the same things to get ready.

Doing this teaches me I am far more a creature of habit and routine than I like to admit, but it’s good to stretch those boundaries occasionally, however uncomfortable a process that is.

On, on…..

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