As my time in Slovakia grows with every passing minute, I would like to share with you some of the things that are happening related to Culture Shock!!!
I am hoping to make this an ongoing series of entries. So I guess this would be “Culture Shock!!! Part 1”
Culture shock by definition “is the feeling of disorientation when someone is suddenly subjected to to unfamiliar culture, way of life or set if attitudes”- Oxford American Dictionary. Needless to say I am feeling a little disoriented. I have been in Slovakia for about 6 weeks. I am still getting used to the language and to life in a small village but, I am enjoying my time. There are of course times when I ask myself “Why am I here?” or “How much longer is this year going to last?”
When you are in a somewhat disorienting experience such as Culture Shock, you tend to cling to the things you are familiar and comfortable with. These for me have been Books and Television. I brought many books and several episodes of my favorite TV shows on my computer. These can be blessings when you use them occasionally and in moderation. For me though I have been finding myself going beyond moderation and into mild obsession. I don’t spend all my time reading or watching TV but, I am missing many opportunities. When I think about what I’m doing, I realize that I am not using my time to study the Slovak language or to spend time getting to know the people I am living with. I am escaping from my reality to be in a familiar one. So, I realize I have a problem. And the old saying, “The first step toward recovery is recognizing you have a problem.” is starting to ring clear in my head. It also helps that during ELCA missionary training they drove many of the culture shock symptoms into our heads.
In many ways I am distracting myself and refusing to answer the many question I have for myself. “What exactly is my mission?”, “How can I be more effective in demonstrating the Gospel when I am a fish of water?” The more I ask these questions, the more I am realize I am dependent upon God’s grace for any glimmer of an answer. I am challenged to receive the hope He gives and learn how to share it ways that seem foreign, frustrating, and without immediate results. And of course this reminds me of one of many words I am learning in Slovakia, “pomaly” or gentle/slow. Learning to do things slowly with patients and focus. What can be more true, God’s grace is an amazing gift, we sometimes distract ourselves from it because we just are not feeling it, or feel like we don’t understand it right away, or because God’s grace can seem so distant and foreign to us. We must learn to be gentle and patient in understanding God’s grace. It is something we must remind ourselves of and learn to how to live by everyday.
In the end and by God’s grace I can put down my books and turn off my computer to take the opportunities He has given.
In the words of Saint Francis “Always Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” It is hard to do that alone in your room.
On the brighter side of things. The more time I spend in Slovakia the more I see the similarities. I can drive down a road in the Slovak hillside and see cows in a field and it looks very similar to many fields I’ve seen in my home state of Virginia. I can teach and play with kids and realize they act the same way in any culture or language setting. It is a blessing to realize they God’s in control. Despite that fact that I’m in a different culture and far away from home God is in the details. He is in a laugh that sounds the same whether it in the US or Slovakia or in the green grass in Slovakia that looks so much look a hillside somewhere in Virginia.
So Ends Part 1…Check back later for Part 2