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Friday, June 03, 2005
Culture shock
This culture shock is pervasive. It seeps through everything--the language, the food, the music, the people, the stores...Everything seems so foreign, so intimidating. It's like being a tiny person in a giant land. Everything is so much larger than life. It's incredibly disconcerting, scary as hell. You're in vertigo ALL THE TIME. All you want to do is hold on tightly to something familiar. I didn't think it was going to be like this for me. Felt all gung-ho, yeah give it to me, I can take anything. Proxima estacion?? Yeah, I'm ready for it...looking forward to the ride, right?? Hasn't been that easy.

I'm a little disappointed in myself only because I didn't think I was like this. I thought I was much stronger. I mean, I've traveled, I've been around the world, I've lived abroad. This isn't my first time. It shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't be feeling so scared.

Toots sent me an email to help keep me grounded:

"The feelings of alienation and isolation are pretty normal so don't start questioning yourself or your ability to deal with things.

It's tied partly to the feelings of being on your own but also a sense of injustice ('Why do I have to endure this just to achieve something? Other people can stay with their friends and family and get things done') and stress at the demands being made of you. Stress is a very hard feeling to describe. I used to think I was stressed until I actually realised what stress is. It's an insidious presence that affects you without knowing what is happening to you.

Another aspect of it is sensory overload. Your brain is being flooded with new images, new pieces of information and the loss of your old instincts (your US ones). Believe me, it's a load to deal with, but your body and your brain acclimatise, fairly quickly. Also, the next time you travel somewhere for work/ study, your body is better equipped to deal with it. The reason it doesn't happen when you're on vacation is because there are fewer demands on us, when we travel.

It might be a cliche, but try breathing exercises, be more regimented (meals at the same time, embrace routine etc.) and most importantly BELIEVE that it will go away in a few days. It always does."

Toots is great.

I really hope it does. I have so much more respect for my parents now than I ever have. I can only now begin to truly understand how they felt when they left home, when they left their families, their land to go somewhere completely foreign. It was a courageous move. Granted, we all had each other and ended up in places where my father had family, so the loneliness wasn't as acute, but they must have had some strength to adapt to new surroundings and new languages. My father's very lucky...if I were married and my husband tried to take me away from what I cherished and loved I would've sent him off packing.
Thoughts shared by Carmen at 11:17 PM
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Who: Carmen

xx-something egyptia-yorker who's spent over half her life stuck in two worlds not of her own making. unable and unwilling to fully embrace one identity over the other, she created (is trying to create) her own place in the world where people love each other unconditionally, irrespective of artificial boundaries, and where dancing merengue is as necessary to life as breathing air.

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