The following post is one I have been re-living as of late, as we re-enter living in SE Asia after a two year stint in the States (original post is here). The whole family is thrust constantly into those awkward situations of being the new kids on the block, and I’m reminded of how hard it is to live that reality. So, for you new-to-a-situation missionaries, I get it. It’s tough, but hang in there, time will eventually erase the new. And for you long-termers, open up a little. We all know goodbyes suck and maybe you’ll have to say them to the new ones, too, (and I know you’re tired of the millions you’ve said so far) but that doesn’t mean the relationship doesn’t have immense value.
She answered my questions with the minimums –one sentence or two at the most. And, try as I might, she kept responding to my best-friendly with no leading comments of her own, checking her phone, obviously occupied with people not right in front of her. And then she delivered the ultimate subtle-shut-down; she asked no questions of me, the New Girl, at all.
And so I busied myself with watching Ava play, and I tried not to take the social rejection too seriously. I tried not to think about all the questions I’d like to ask her about this new place I’ve landed, and I ignored the loneliness of isolation, again, that started to creep in. I told myself that the tears I blinked back were irrational at best, and that this woman sharing my space had probably just had a bad morning. I reminded myself that she couldn’t have known that we Parkers had been waiting all week for this chance to interact with other expat moms and kids. She couldn’t have understood how much hope we had put in this morning.
And I get it, I do. She’s been here for years, not months. And her plate is full already–with activities and friendships and ministry and kids. I was there, honestly, just six months ago in a quaint mountain town in Colorado. I was struggling to pursue the friendships I already had, and spotting new moms at the park found me a bit less eager to exchange numbers for fear that I wouldn’t, actually, have the time to call, after all.
But, this week I tasted New Girl, and I am still choking on the bitter. I tried to connect and fit in to this culture of other expat missionary moms, and I found that maybe I’m more square-peg than I thought. I was reminded that white faces don’t automatically erase gulfs of culture and generation, personality and beliefs.
And I know that this is a season for me as New Girl. And I know that, perhaps, eventually, I’ll be the one logging years, instead of months. Maybe one day, I’ll be the girl with more answers than questions on this piece of foreign soil. But, I pray that when that day arrives, I’ll keep enough margin in my schedule and in my heart to speak vulnerable. To ask questions. And to get the New Girl’s number.
And then make the time to call it.
Okay, be honest. On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being the epitome of friendliness), how open are you to building new friendships with those that have just landed in your area? The newbies or the younger ones or the short-termers– are you subconsciously shutting down relationships before they begin?