Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock Tennesseemed Scary

Friends Blowing Kisses To Their Adoring Fans?
I Guess Some Things Never Do Change
Courtesy of Wesley Smith

            Initially, I dreaded the idea of coming back to the states. Not because I didn’t want to come home, but because I had heard so much about reverse culture shock. Though, to be honest, so far it hasn’t been too bad. It’s been surprisingly easy in some ways. It’s amazing how things come right back to you. Driving, friendships, returning to your old haunts: all things that worried me about coming back. I couldn’t help but worry that since I’ve changed, my hometown has changed, and my friends have changed…are all these changes going to correlate and make room for each other? For the most part, they did. I’ve enjoyed the progress my town has made, and fortunately, talking with most of my friends came easy, almost as if I never left. I really do have incredible friends everywhere I’ve been and I’ll never take that for granted.
            I do miss Belfast. I do miss my old placements there. I do miss the people there. A lot. Even more than I expected. But I also miss people from back home. And people from camp. And people from Chicago. I think that's just something that's always going to happen to me, especially if I keep moving around like this. But I've gotten better at handling missing people. I just gotta take all that nostalgic energy and transfer it into the present. So currently whenever I start to miss someone or some place, I focus all my attention to all the wonderful people I’m meeting in Nashville, to my awesome roommates, and to another fresh start in an awesome city.
            Of course there are moments that are out of my control. Small things are still weird to me. I can use my debit card here and not get charged a big amount because I’m not overseas. I have to remember to reserve a little extra cash for the tax that comes with every purchase. If I don’t, I sound so pretentious:
“Sorry. I just lived in the UK for a year, and in the UK whatever is on the price tag is what you pay.” *smug laughter and monocle adjustment*

Reunited And It Feels So Good
(Fell Right Back Into Place With These Guys)
Courtesy of Luna Anna Archey

I am also sometimes surprised that American friends can reach me again, that I can text them, that I can call them, that I don’t have to always schedule a skype call. I think in some ways, access to people has become my biggest struggle, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a kind of overwhelming way. It’s as if the good ol’ US of A welcomed me back by saying:
“Hi, T.J.! Here are all the people from your life that you have talked to for a year through your computer! You have less than two weeks before you move to Nashville—don’t forget to pack!—to see as many of your loved ones as you can while simultaneously reacquainting yourself with Michigan and America. Don’t forget about the churches you need to speak at, the YAV documents you never turned in, the thank you notes you need to write, and the fundraising you need to get at! Well, welcome back! I’m going to go be a jerk to someone else now.”
            My adjustments, however, are of course straight-up for babies. These aren’t real difficulties, especially compared to my other YAV friends who have returned from Guatemala and Kenya. I can only imagine the adjustment struggle they are going through.
I’m not going to shorthand the cultural differences between Belfast and the USA, but I’m also going to point out how subtle they are. If you haven’t lived in Belfast and you’re just visiting, you may just notice the fun accents, the cool architecture, the pub culture, the kind people, etc. You may not go into areas like the Shankill and see FAP written on the walls, or catch a flute band marching around Carlisle Circus, or see a giant bonfire on the 11th of July. And even if you did, how much digging would you do to see what that’s all about?

Whenever I Miss Belfast...
I'll Wear a Belfast Shirt, Drink Dunkin Donuts, and Chill with these Fine Ladies
Courtesy of Alaylay

This isn’t a criticism because I’d definitely be the same way. All I’m saying is that many cultural differences* between Belfast and the U.S. are beneath the surface. Guatemalan or Kenyan cultures are obviously an in-your-American-face difference, let alone beneath the surface. I don’t envy the reverse culture shock my friends are going through, so I’m definitely not going to complain about mine.
I’m already extremely grateful for the challenges, growth, and experiences this year will give me. I asked to be a part of The Room in the Inn because of how curious I am about homeless communities. You all know the cliché “Knowledge is power!” (By the way, did that saying come from the classic 80’s cartoon G.I. Joes? I feel like it did). The point is, I don’t know much about the homeless, and I no longer want to feel powerless and/or awkward when talking to a homeless person just because I don’t know what our middle ground is. I just want to chill with them and learn about where they are coming from. Hear what they have to say. Learn to meet them where they’re at. Homelessness is worldwide and I’m going to keep encountering it, so I can’t wait to do what I can at Room in the Inn.
Also, I start at Room in the Inn tomorrow. It’s a half day. I’ll write about it soon. Later!

*And similarities too, but that’ll have to be a blog for another day.

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