So 6 months in and the typical low has hit. The interesting part of adjustment is that many of the ties that hold you in place from day to day are stretched thin and become more long term rather than day to day relationships. You had things to do and people to do them for. You had friends to see who you knew and could predict what would offend them or amuse them. You were loved and your company was wanted.
Starting a life in a new place or returning to a place means letting go of the day to day ease of those relationships which were comfortable and comforting.
Not to mention not having people to do things for. We held a status in whatever place and community we have become a part of and it takes quite awhile to establish a different status or place. Perhaps it's more difficult in a place where people aren't prepared for people to move in and out every year. The best thing expats do is make a real effort to include and involve new team members. Making new friends and establishing close relationships happens more quickly, I think, overseas because people expect to say goodbye and hello very frequently.
Practically our situation is very good and we are blessed. The kids have a school, we have jobs, a car, we are preparing to move into a new house. The kids have adjusted pretty well and have made friends and will make more.
Emotionally Darren and I have hit the 6 month dip. Things were flying high we had our hands in the air screaming, and life was a giggle even if there were frightening times. Now the reality our limited connections in the social context has hit and the part where we just have to wait and be patient is upon us.
Approaching every conversation with hope and effort. Hoping that this will build into a friendship which could continue and offer a place for us to encourage someone, to minister. Sitting in a pew rather than working in the fellowship, trying to find a place to take part and to be part.
Darren and I are experiencing challenges that are different as well as similar in that while he has some ties that he is able to renew and he knows who people are talking about when they mention someone in conversation, he is also a different person than he was when he left and we didn't have the opportunity to keep a lot of connections here, outside family, so many people are experiencing him for the first time. My challenge is that I am a new element completely so there are few ties for me to go back to and reestablish. The funny thing is both these experiences lead to the same problems. In social contexts it is difficult to tell if a person has been offended or has found me strange, or overwhelming. Walking away from conversations constantly unsure of what effect I have had on the other person has finally led to that place where I start to feel drained. Not to mention the lack of internal peace and joy from knowing I have been of some comfort to a person today. That I offered emotional hospitality to those in my community.
The cherry on top is that I face the challenge of not being able to explain any of this to those around me since I am in a unique position right now. It is difficult to explain to those who have had a place their whole lives in the community where they now live, how hard it is to find your own place. Having always had a reputation and status it is difficult for them to understand the oppressiveness of having neither of those things in a new community.
So, here at this point what do I remind myself of?
1. Those that wait upon the L.... Darren and I were pretty aware that it would take two years for us to feel "at home", and here is where we need to keep that in mind.
2. I am loved as a child of G. and I have my "place" in him.
3. That even if people here aren't used to saying hello and goodbye in relationships as frequently as we are, they do have strong life long ties and one day we will have those types of ties as well.
4. That we have a circle of family and friends who have welcomed us home and are sympathetic to our challenges, they have put a lot of effort into our adjustment, they are awesome, and we are thankful for that.