So, a good friend gave me some good advice recently: When culture shock sets in big time, and you start feeling like you don’t want to see anyone or anything, that is the time to force yourself to be social. So, visit neighbors, go to the veggie market, buy a pair of socks. Basically, just don’t stay in your house with the lights off hoping no one knocks on your door. And, definitely, get out of your pajamas. Hmmm. I have to admit that the pjs were looking pretty dang good. And it’s been frigid here the last couples of weeks. Who knew 38 degrees without a heater would feel like perpetually riding on a ski lift? What if I just told people I had the flu and stayed under the covers all day? Well, I almost did… but then I remembered my friend’s advice.
So, this week, I made it my goal to hang out with a neighbor or friend outside of regular language learning hours every day. I know what you’re thinking. My-oh-my! What lofty goals! Ha ha. You will be greatly surprised to hear that I (unintentionally) exceeded my own self-expectations. This has been an intense week of full houses, full stomachs, and a full on assault against culture shock. Here is a story from this week’s outings:
On Monday, we were at a friend’s house when they started a fire in the living room. Not in a fireplace or anything… just a fire… on the floor… in the living room. So, we are quite cold, but it certainly never occurred to us that you could just light a fire in your house! In the moment, I was instantly reminded of this time in 3rd grade when the fire department came to my elementary school. They had made a semi-truck into a simulation house to teach us how to respond in the event of a house fire. They warned us about the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and gave us all of the rules: have an escape plan, stay low to the ground out of the smoke, make noise so that fire fighters can find you, and so on. Then, they sent us into the simulation house in small groups. As it filled with a pop-concert kind of fog, we crawled and yelled our way to the nearest exit where a firefighter helped us out of the house. Needless to say, I’m pretty sure “light a fire on your living room floor” wasn’t on the list of to-dos during the simulation.
After a while at our friend’s house, smoke filled the room. It was seriously dense (i.e. our eyes were all watery and it was hard to breathe). Everyone had their heads in their laps coughing, and laughing, and yelling at each other with muffled voices from all of the fabric in their mouths. Then, finally, the parents in the house just opened the door and fanned out billows of smoke. I’m still not sure what to make of it, but the whole time I was hardly containing my laughter. It was just welling up in me from a deep place. Maybe that moment was just such an incredible contrast to my entire worldview and growing up that it seemed ridiculous, or maybe it was caused by all of the endorphins released after panicking that the whole place might go up in flames. Who knows? But, in some ways, our life here always feels a bit like we’ve got a fire on our living room floor. Certainly, we are warmer with it, and the whole thing gives us new, deep joy. But, we aren’t always so sure that we’re going to make it out alive, it can be a little hard to breathe, and we certainly can’t see through the smoke into what is ahead. I guess that’s where faith kicks in. We don’t plan on putting the fire out. For now, we’re just waiting for our Father to clear the smoke.