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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Culture Shocked.

I'm barely home.  The act of finding "normal" again will be a journey.  Piece by piece I'll process my experience in Zambia, and I have no idea how often or soon I'll do it, but I've promised myself to work it out here with words- the best way I know how.

After a sweet reunion with Jim and the kids, I fell asleep harder and faster than I've ever done in my life. And after five hours of rock hard sleep, I woke up terrified- I had no idea where I was.  After a moment, I adjusted, and relaxed- but the jolt of adrenaline did it's work and I can't get back to sleep.

There is a process to entering a completely new place- and once you've stayed a while, there is a process to returning. 

Right now I don't know how much I'll talk about Zambia in the next several days- though I've received several messages and emails from people excited to know all about it.  Day by day I'll get the words out- though right now it feels like everything I say falls short.

But here's what was on my mind as I tried (and failed) to fall back to sleep.


It was strange to come back to the thriving consumerism of American airports- loud TVs blasting mostly useless news, things to buy everywhere. 

And to the O'Hare airport- where you automatically get a new toilet seat cover with each use and you don't even have to touch anything, and a fine cup of Intelligentsia coffee is just around the corner.  I admit, I love both, but for whatever reason, that was the first moment of shock for me.  The jolt back to America.

My eager children were waiting at the door for me, and gave me the deepest, sincerest hugs I've ever experienced from any of them.  Even Hudson had an air of maturity- not so much a running and slamming into me like excited kids do- but more of a calm, deep, intentional embrace- it knocked my heart off it's feet.

I thought it might happen- and it did.  My extremely fair children look strange and new to me.  It was common for children to call out "Makua!" (ghost) when they saw us.  This makes absolute sense to me now.  We are really, really white. 

Also, many Zambians speak English in addition to native languages.  Their language skills astounded me-  I have so much to learn!  After a bit of assimilation to the accent it is very easy to understand almost anyone, and you're able to adjust your patterns of speech and phrasing to make your own words more clear to others.  But suprisingly, after tuning my ears to the people of Zambia, hearing my own kids speak sounds strange to me- they sound extremely clear and proper in their American English accents.  It threw me off.  Hudson has never sounded more articulate.  The best I can describe it would be the comparison of an American meeting a British person- I didn't expect it.  Moving on.

When I left in December, I felt the painful pull of home- of Jim and our children, as I crossed the Atlantic.  And as I made my eager return, I felt a new pain.  As I sat silently, suspended above the water, it was there sharp and deep- a pull from two places.

The people and place of Zambia have irrevocably altered me.  As if a deep part of me was removed and buried there under the red clay.

4 comments:

American Mum said...

I've been anxiously awaiting your first post. I'm glad you're back safely and I can't wait to hear what you have to say about it all. It's been nearly 15 years since I experienced what you're experiencing, and even then, at only 15, I'm sure was nothing as intense as seeing it as an adult.

I thought of you often as I know it might sounds superficial, I want to see some pictures!

robandbeckyt said...

Welcome home Megan! I'm glad you had such an awesome experience. Can't wait to hear the things God taught you...enjoy your day with your family.

Jim said...

Glad to have you back!!

Molly @ Star Cottage said...

Wow Megan, you went to Africa?!! (I've been out of the blog loop for quite some time, I appologize.) That is incredibly awesome!
I really do like the way you write in general, but this post was very expressive and well written ;)
Yes please! on the pictures, I can't even imagine!