Friday, February 8, 2013

Back in America: The Fourth Week

It's been a while since writing about the process of adjusting back to living in America.  I've been taking mental and physical notes about things I've noticed, though, so hopefully there won't be too many gaps between the information.

(The environment doesn't seem hostile...)
  • Listening in on people's English conversations and finding out they're not that exciting. (fourth week)
  • Still thinking I'm going to recognize everyone just because I'm "home" again.
  • Still being cooled out that I don't have to use plug converters
  • Hung out with new friends.  Didn't freak out.
  • Realized in a heavy way that I do NOT want to live under my parents' roof for long.
  • Girl I was walking with looked ahead, gasped, and said, "What in the world?"  It took me 10 seconds to realize she was talking about the SUV parked on the sidewalk.  People don't do that here, now do they.
  • I don't feel the need to eat everything with chopsticks anymore (sixth week)
  • Coffee is way too expensive.  I thought that was only in Korea.
  • Panera upped their prices.  Lame.
  • I was so happy when I slipped into Taco Mac with all the Falcons fans during the Championship game with the 49ers.  Everyone wanted one thing, for the Falcons to win (I wanted that, too!), and it was all about American football.  It was really cool to be happy about that.
  • I was somewhere where I literally could not understand this one speaker because of his super thick Southern accent.  (eighth week)
  • I ate kimchi and it was spicier and not as delicious as I remember.  :'(  (tenth week)
  • I was excited to participate in a Super Bowl party and recognized it as a good thing because, Hey, Go America!
  • I turned on the television to watch a TV show for the first time in maybe 2 years.  (eleventh week)  (Community!)

That's me in America!
Caleb and I have picked up a interest in taking pictures together.  We've walked downtown Newnan twice.  This is a picture Caleb took in one of the alleys there in December.

Deeper Observations
I'm now in my 11th week here, starting out in my third month.  I've been able to meet with some others who have been through similar experiences, I've gotten to read a few books on the topic of reverse culture shock, and I've found a great group of friends who are starting to make me feel like I have a spot here.  All those things are very good and have been extremely helpful.  My parents, too, have been understanding and patient which has helped me feel comfortable in our home.

I still have trouble talking about everything that goes on in my mind, though.  Actually, no, I can talk with strangers freely, but when I'm talking with family and friends, I'm worried about saying something that will offend them or that will hurt their view of me.  Just yesterday, I met up with a stranger for lunch.  She had traveled a lot, too, and encouraged me with questions about my experiences in Korea and my experiences here now that I've returned.  I spilled to her about some of the top issues I've been working with.  A month earlier, I was in an interview with a guy who said, "So what's it been like, now that you're home?"  I told him I usually don't talk about it very deeply because I'll start saying some harsh-sounding things, but he said, "No, man, I really want to know.  You're in a safe place."

The hardest person to talk with about everything has been Caleb, my boyfriend and best friend.  Here now, I want to tell you about the breakthroughs we've had.

Caleb loves his country, and I've felt uncomfortable saying negative things about it.  He didn't like hearing them, either.  Not in a, "Don't say that!" way, but in a "Aw, this is such a bummer you feel this way," way.  He and I would both feel off when I would bring up something I didn't like about what I was seeing, and one night we had a small explosion.

We discussed.  He was upset with how he perceived that I wasn't giving America many chances.  I would say that I didn't like it here, and then I would point out all these small things that irritated me, and those things aren't good reasons to not like a place.  I was upset by how I felt he wasn't being patient with me, and I told him that that's not why I don't like America, I don't like being here because I don't have a life here.
That was the kicker.

We slowly put the pieces together to realize that Caleb had been thinking I was upset with America because of those irritating things, but really I was sad because I missed my friends, my job, my students, my dance class, my city, and my home.  When I realized that Caleb had thought I was mad because of the irritating things, it made much more sense why he had been acting the way he'd been acting.

I still feel like it's risky to talk with him about American things I notice or things that get under my skin.  I still tread lightly.  But!  Just this last week, I found another very important thing to keep in mind.

I've made it very clear in my conversation, actions, and writings that I returned to America to invest in my relationship with Caleb.  He knows that.  Everyone knows that.  So, when I talk about missing Korea and about not liking it here, well geeze, how would it make him feel to hear that?  At the end of one of our "Lindsay Misses Korea" conversations, I ended with, "But, Caleb?  I do not regret leaving, and I am very glad to be here with you."  He told me that it was good to hear me say that, and he asked me to tell him that again in the future.  Aha!  Knowing how important it is for Caleb to know that I wouldn't leave him if I could make the decision again sheds much more light on how he feels when I talk about America and reverse culture shock.

Little by little we're getting closer and learning more about how to talk about and handle my transition.
I hope we win.

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