3 Weeks and Counting

(Rather than any commentary on the Middle East, here is a more personal reflection on our upcoming move)

It definitely feels like we’ve crossed the Rubicon. Last weekend some friends were gracious to host a garage sale for us. We got rid of a bunch of stuff, including our entertainment center, book cases, and computer desk. Packing is moving forward and our move to the Middle East is right around the corner. In the past couple of weeks many of the very pragmatic realities of moving a family-of-four halfway across the globe have hit us full force. Yesterday, I was sharing this with one of my mentors. He and his family lived internationally for a number of years and he has a lot of wisdom about cross-cultural matters.

He took out a scrap of paper and drew a picture illustrating our journey. It was a deep river valley. His drawing was a black and white line drawing, but I found this picture online of one of my favorite places in the world Letchworth State Park and thought it was remarkably similar.

Balloons Over Letchworth Gorge

Basically, most people see an international move (or any cross-cultural adaptation: new job,new neighborhood, new church, new grade level in school, etc.) as simply crossing the river. A hard enough task, esp. if you don’t have a boat or a bridge, but the journey truly begins on the plateau far above the river and doesn’t simply end on the other shore. My friend shared how most people come to a point where the reality of their upcoming move becomes shockingly apparent. This is like falling off the precipice on the left. The process of leaving is then an often complicated and stressful negotiation of switchbacks down the scree to the riverbank. How long and how difficult this stage is varies from person to person, esp. depending on how aware they are of the process they are going through as they prepare (or don’t) for leaving their culture of origin.

The crossing of the river is the basic move from one culture to another, and although perhaps challenging in some respects is truly only a brief experience.

Then the journey renews on the other bank, picking one’s way carefully through resettling in the new culture with all of its new sights, smells, routines, responsibilities, expectations, surprises etc. Eventually a new state of “normal” life is achieved however. Below I traced out the journey and labeled the stages.

Stages of Leaving and Arriving in a New Culture

My friend seemed to think that we had taken the plunge of Step 2 and were some distance along the switchbacks of Step 3 with all of it’s accompanying stresses and challenges. The river bank is in sight – but there are still a few challenges to be surmounted.

I liked this illustration and hope you do to. It helps me put it all in perspective. I’m sure when we arrive in our new adopted home I will refer back to this as we try to get settled in. The really encouraging part is that a new sense of “normal” will eventually develop.

Keep us in your prayers!

PS – I’m not sure what the hot air balloons represent. They obviously weren’t in my friend’s original drawing – I’m open to suggestions!  =)

Advertisements

3 Responses

  1. Thanks Phil – keep me posted on your progress!

  2. Excellent. Thank you Brian. It helps to hear from someone that is in the midst of this process. Anyone who is contemplating a similar journey can benefit.

  3. […] Pilgrim reflects on what it feels like to be leaving for a completely different culture in a couple … Basically, most people see an international move (or any cross-cultural adaptation: new job,new neighborhood, new church, new grade level in school, etc.) as simply crossing the river. A hard enough task, esp. if you don’t have a boat or a bridge, but the journey truly begins on the plateau far above the river and doesn’t simply end on the other shore. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: