Ask an Author...Overseas transitions

Posted by  | Monday, August 17, 2009  at 5:00 AM  
One of our readers, Melissa asked if Krista and I could share about when we arrived initially overseas, our culture shock, language learning,, cooking, etc… Melissa, I am so glad you asked! Here’s some of our story of initial arrival and culture shock. I hope Krista will share her story! She’s a great overseas wife and mom and has a lot of wisdom in mommying and cooking!!

My husband and I planned to move overseas for 2 years but didn’t know where we were going until a year before we left. As soon as we knew where we were going we started reading, studying, and asking a lot of questions about our country. I found someone who lived in the city where we were moving and I drove her nuts with emails of questions! She was so gracious to answer all of my silly questions! We were prepared as anyone could be beforehand but nothing can completely prepare you for everything that you will go through in the first several months of living in your new home.

I remember arriving at around 10 pm in the airport in our country with our 3 children (then 10, 4, and 3), 19 suitcases and boxes, 5 carry-ons, 2 computer bags and a brain that was in complete “fog mode!” We were greeted by some sweet people who took us straight to our apartment. They had put some eggs, juice, milk and bread in our kitchen and handed us a pan of brownies and said, “Call us when you wake up or when you decide you need something.”

When we shut the door, I turned around to see what looked to me like an impossible place to make home:

The ceramic floor was white and black checked, the room was LINED with huge floral chairs, the couch and love seat were turquoise leather, the THREE chandeliers in the living area were atrocious green metal leaf/tree type structures, 10 sconces that matched the chandeliers and the walls were caked in nicotine! Our children were standing there with their carry-ons still strapped on, the 19 pieces of luggage were piled all around, and I looked at my husband and thought, “Oh my! What have we done?!” At this point none of my homework paid off except that I knew this is where we were supposed to be and God would guide us.

After a crazy night’s sleep (children up and down throwing up and not knowing where they were) we woke up to tackle what was ahead of us. We had no toilet paper so purchasing that was first on the agenda. At that point I told Matt, “YOU go! I am NOT going out there! It’s scary!” So, he and Madison volunteered to go toilet paper hunting! They returned a few minutes later with a favorable report: “Honey, we live on top of a mall! The people are so nice! They gave Madison candy and everyone touched her hair! And look…I found toilet paper, right in our building!” Of course, I was impressed with the mall possibility but while they had been gone I was discovering how much work it was going to take to make my apartment homey.

At that point something in me flipped and I went into “make this house a home” mode! For the next three months I was a mad woman! I went out just about every night (when stores are open here) after I put the kids to bed and looked and shopped and shopped. I didn’t care that I didn’t know anyone or didn’t know the language. I was just determined to have a place that was homey in the middle of a city, language and people that was so foreign.

I succeeded in making our apartment a place that we call home but…

Then another switch flipped….the culture shock switch. At about the 3 month mark, I decided that I had had enough and I was ready to go back to America. I didn’t want to go out of the house, I was afraid to talk to people and I didn’t want to use any language that I had learned up to that point. I had been warned of the signs of culture shock and knew that I was in the middle of it but the reality of it was a terrible feeling. God was so good in allowing Matt and I to experience culture shock at different times (his didn’t happen until a few months later) because we were there for each other during some very difficult times. We went through feelings of uselessness, anger toward our new culture, language frustrations, and mourning of things WE missed for our children (their grandparents, friends, a yard, church programs). The initial culture shock did end but I will say that it does come and go every now and then…but less frequently for sure! The only things that get me through those times are clinging to verses that I have made a list of before, the support of my husband, God’s call on our lives and prayer.

My post is already way too long and I only wrote about our initial entry and culture shock!! So, I will just leave you with the verses that carry me through some of the most difficult days of my life….but it is OH SO WORTH IT!
Colossians 1:29
Matthew 6:25-34
Psalm 55:22
Philippians 4:6-9, 19 (Don’t panic, don’t be paralyzed, PRAY)
Melissa, I prayed for you as I wrote this post: Dear Jesus, I pray for Melissa and her family right now…as they prepare to move overseas. I thank you for your promise to go before us and to come behind us…I thank you for your calling on our lives. I pray for all of the details and last minute things she and her husband must do…give them wisdom and grace in decisions they must make. I pray for the teary good –byes that must be said to their families…allow the pain to be minimal in the light of your glory. I pray for the new friends that they will make in their new country, for their entry, for their adjustment….God, pour out your grace and glory upon all that they think, do and say! May You, Jesus be glorified in all things!

3 comments:

Courtney said...

Stacey, thank you for sharing. I have a friend who is about to hit her two month mark in S.Africa. I really think this post will help me to pray for her and send her encouragement.

We're Jared, Michelle, and Caleb. said...

Stacey, I appreciate your post. My husband and I have been living overseas for 4 years now. We just had our first child last October. In the last year, we have lived in 4 different houses, 3 cities and two languages. My culture shock hit the hardest with children. I felt like I could handle anything but I didn't want my child to have to endure "hardship". Thanks for the Scripture!

Matt and Stacey said...

Michelle,
wow..4 different houses, 3 cities and TWO languages in one year...bless you my friend..on a good day, that is not fun for sure!

I am right there with you when it comes to my kiddos...but I quickly found that my children really weren't having to endure hardships...they weren't missing...they were gaining so much more than I could ever give them in the states and especially out of God's will for ours and their lives! Now sometimes I question that on those most difficult days but HE is so faithful to sustain my with His word.

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