Sunday, March 27, 2011


The windows in most Georgian houses don't have screens. The openness is very convenient for throwing dirt of all sorts out the window. Yesterday, as I leaned out my bedroom window to clean the dried mud off my school shoes with a scrub brush (and feeling very Georgian about doing so), a question popped into my head: is adaptation easier when it is only temporary?

The third stage of culture shock is characterized by continuing adaptation and assimilation into the new culture. That is where I am now. It is so nice to be out of the horrendous stage two when everything is irritating and annoying. Pair that stage with winter, and UGH! There were a few brutal days in there, but I am now well past that stage. Thank God.

While hanging out the window and cleaning off my shoes, I felt perfectly normal -- as if I had done this a million times. Everyone scrubs their shoes off to clean them -- and leaning out of the window is a logical place and way to do the job. Other things that go out the window? - dust and dirt from the dustpan and cut flowers that have gone by. In the U.S., I would never throw things out the window, but here I do it every day. Now, every time I open the kitchen door or a window to pitch dirty water, food scraps, or dirt outside, I think about some old black and white movie set in medieval Paris or London when some passerby on the cobblestones gets doused with the bucket of dishwater being heaved from inside. That's me every day -- the thrower, not the one getting soaked. Those things that I have never done before are seeming more and more natural the longer I am here. I have started noticing the things that are beginning to feel normal because they were not natural for me when I first arrived. Paying attention to the changes in my perspective and attitude makes the process of adaptation more self-reflective. Thus, my question.

Does knowing that my situation is only temporary make the adaptation process easier?

I don't know. I've been thinking about this for two days. In some ways, I think it does, but in other ways, it doesn't. Perhaps, knowing that a situation is only temporary may cause a person to think that adapting to a new way is just a waste of time. Since they won't be there permanently, what is the point of changing? Just deal with the differences in method or manner or attitude, bucking the system and creating discord -- but who cares? It's only temporary. Whereas, viewing the change as only temporary, the new ways can feel more manageable. Knowing that one can go back to "their way" of doing things within a month or a year, that person can deal with adopting foreign practices for that time. But is it easier?

What if one were having to make these changes permanently? For the sake of sanity, a positive outlook on the new lifestyle is most helpful. Yet, the burden of knowing that everything about life must change is a heavy one and tough to bear.

Changing and adapting to new ways, even temporarily is not easy. As much as I like change and adventure, I am a creature of habit. And when all my habits go out the window (like the wilted flowers), what do I have to lean on for any sense of normalcy? Just the familiarity of the reflection in the mirror. Nothing else. I have had to learn to do everything in a new way: laundry, dishes, cooking, communicating, shopping, traveling, teaching..... I am adapting, but has my ease of change been sped along by my knowledge that I am not staying here?

I still don't know, but I'll keep thinking about it.

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