As I am in the middle of wading through culture shock, I am so thankful for things that seem to transcend time zones and culture. Things that I know are the same no matter where I am or who I’m with or what language I’m (kind of) speaking.
Like the normal, everyday things that make up a life.
What were once mundane tasks and chores I had to grit through with my son, the things that would leave me counting down the hours until my husband got home or until bedtime, are now the things that make me feel sane. Because culture shock is tricky, and sometimes I get worried I’m slowly losing bits of myself.
It’s the normal, everyday tasks which remind me that though they may be expressed differently in this season, and may be even a little tucked away and hidden, my personality and gifts and humor and skills are all still there.
One of the millions of things I’ve either heard or read about culture shock and the transition to being third culture is that one will easily romanticize whichever culture they are not in. So, when I’m annoyed with Thailand and everything here feels hard, it’s easy to think to myself well, if we were in America this would NOT be happening or doing this in America is way easier and better or I would never feel this way at home in America.
And those are all lies. Because the reality is my garbage is the same garbage there as it is here. The issues I had at home are the issues I have abroad.
Sure, paying my phone bill takes way less actual time in America than it seems to in Thailand. That is true. But, the amount of patience and flexibility I have are the exact same in both places. This place just seems to reveal just how impatient and hurried I really am. It certainly isn’t Thailand’s fault that an errand taking multiple trips and a couple hours makes me impatient, annoyed, self-righteous and more swear-y than an R-rated movie. That’s on me. You can imagine what a massive bummer it is to realize that not so far under the surface of my personality lays all this nasty junk.
Apparently, all the “better” ways at home are merely a precarious system of things which keep me from snapping someone’s head off and using a 20$ expletive.
If all the nice, orderly, dependable systems in your life suddenly unraveled or ceased to exist entirely, what of you would be left?
You. You would be left.
Whatever there is of you, it’s there no matter where you are. No matter what or who is holding you up or together, you are the same.
And, again, that’s either deeply reassuring or really frustrating.
Which is why I’m finding solace in those boring, normal, everyday things. The things that just make me feel like me, the things that remind me that, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, I am still me. The normalcy of making someone laugh really hard, because it reminds me that yes, I am still funny. The really normal, mundane work of washing dishes and making the bed and returning emails all of a sudden become grounding because washing a dish is the same and how I like my pillows arranged is the same and how I sign an email, that too, is the same. Because when it feels like I am being molded and pushed and prodded from all sides, it’s wonderful to find those things that are same. Whatever that means right now.
So I am loving the mundane.
The moments and things that used to make me want to punch someone in the face or buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke them all while drinking a long island are now the times that remind me I’m still me and my husband and I are still us.
Doing the laundry all day every day and wiping bottoms and washing dishes and sending emails and lesson planning and talking to a friend back home who is picking out baby names, all of those things are what help make and keep me. The sameness helps me find sanity and encouragement when everything around me is different and new.
The mundane sacred work of being a mom and a wife and a friend and a child of God and a sister isn’t contingent on where I live. And what those things reveal of my character and heart isn’t either.
It’s me. It’s all me wherever I am.
So while some of it reveals the ugly and sinful stuff, some of it reveals the beautiful and lovely stuff. Some of living here reveals the gross, and some reveals the resilient and adaptable.
And, thankfully, I get to keep working all of it out.
Katie Kleinjung lives with her husband Stephen and two babies, Shepherd and Valor, in Thailand. After living in the same town her entire life, a life overseas was never on her radar. When she decided to leave her home of Minnesota, she figured she’d make it worth it and went to Bible College in Ecuador. It was there that she realized she just may end up on the mission field. During university, she traveled to Thailand a number of times and took a semester off to live and work in India. A seminary dropout, Katie is passionate about missions, living authentically, and experiencing all life has to offer. Within the first year of their marriage, Katie and Stephen decided to leave their steady jobs, family and friends and head to Thailand. They also got pregnant, moved a few times and Stephen underwent four major surgeries. Follow their crazy life and honest antics at www.thekleinjungs.com. Instagram @katiejkleinjung; Twitter @thekleinjungs; Periscope: The Kleinjungs.