Dec 1, 2014
It’s been exactly five months since I embarked on this crazy journey commonly referred to as study abroad. It’s been a little more than a week since I’ve been home and in that time I have managed to unsuccessfully unpack my suitcase (on the contrary, I think the stuff in and around my suitcase has actually multiplied), while simultaneously managing to successfully work my way through a good deal of delicious Thanksgiving leftovers.
Simply put, I am happy to be home. Of course, there are things I miss about Costa Rica, but by the end of my whole adventure I was more than ready to come back home. Four and a half months of growing pains gets to be a little… well, painful. No, no, painful isn’t the right word, maybe overwhelming? Not right either.
Okay, analogy time: It’s like that feeling when you stretch in a way that hurts, like really hurts. But it’s a good hurt. It’s the kind of hurt that extends deep into your muscles and all the stored-up tension you didn’t realize was there. It’s the kind of hurt that lets you know you’re doing something that is ultimately good for your body, something that your body needs. And so you gather up some courage and steel yourself. You push through the smoldering pain, trying your hardest to take your mind away from the pain and instead find peace in that moment. You manage to succeed to some degree and the pain becomes background static to your inner harmony. But even then it’s audible, and somewhere deep inside you can’t help but think ‘When will this be over??’ And when you finally come out of the stretch it’s like a huge wave of water crashing down on the shore; it’s a complete and total release. From the tips of your toes to the roots of your hair, you’ve let go. No more tension, no more effort. You can fully and completely relax. A smile of relief begins to creep onto your face. You’re proud because you made it, you’re happy because your body feels good, and you’re at peace because you’re done. No more effort, you’re home.
Alright, great analogy Hilda, but what’s a concrete description of your experience? I can’t say. I can’t say that I’ve really experienced any reverse culture shock, but if there is anything I’ve realized since coming back it’s that I have no idea how to describe my experience. Either that, or I just don’t want to. When people ask about it, I can tell that what I say isn’t enough for them, or that my answer is unsatisfyingly generic or cliché. But I’m at a true loss for words that might somehow explain what my experience was like. And so, that’s my culture shock. I had four and a half months of incredible experiences and I can’t share them. I just don’t know how. But I think with time I’ll learn how. I think I’m still in the process of letting go; the wave is still crashing down on the shore, and until it’s done there’s just no way I’ll be able to see through to the depths of my experiences and make sense of them.
So, until then, I’ll just wait. Thankfully, school doesn’t start for another month so I’ve got time. I’ve got time to wait and process. And meanwhile I can enjoy my family, friends, and home that I so sorely missed!
Signing off for good.