In mid-december, I arrived back in the United States after spending 3 1/2 months in the Dominican Republic. From the very beginning of our time there they warned us about reverse culture shock. They told us that returning home would be difficult, painful even. I didn’t doubt that some people would struggle upon their return, I just doubted that it would be me.
The more entrenched in Dominican culture I became, and the more I fell in love with my mountain village, the more I realized that the people in the Semester Abroad Office knew what they were talking about. The return home was going to be a lot more difficult than I had imagined. Here are some examples of my struggles:
- In the DR you never flush toilet paper. Never. In the bathrooms in the US, I find myself looking around for the trash can that’s next to the toilet and then I realize…
- Not as many people speak Spanish here. Whenever I’m in public by myself, my default language with strangers and service personelle is always Spanish. Oops.
- Sometimes I can’t think of the English word for something, and I’m just stuck.
- People don’t respond when I hiss to get their attention.
- Walmart was a completely overwhelming experience for me. The first two times I went, I cried right there in the aisle. There was just so much stuff everywhere, tons of people milling around, all pushing, all in a hurry, and even in all that stuff I couldn’t find what I needed.
Now, crying in the supermarket is not my favorite thing, but it did teach me that I was going to need to allow myself time to adjust.
I’ve been home for almost a month and I’m still adjusting. To be honest, I find Bethel very overwhelming at times. It’s so very busy here, there is always something to do and some place to be. I jumped right back into homework, Chapel Band, homework, Concert Choir, assistant designing hair and make-up for Little Women, homework, finishing a practicum and a class from last semester, and more homework, not to mention friendships!! I love Bethel, and I want to feel comfortable here again, and in someways I still am comfortable, but it can never be completely the same. The problem is, I feel pressure to fit right back into the exact same place in the Bethel Puzzle that I fit into when I left. But I’m not that same shape anymore.
It’s a process, I’m told. I’ve also never been told that I’m a patient person… But I serve a patient God and he isn’t done with me yet, and he is not done using this experience in my life. Gloria a Dios.