There’s a nifty graph that gets passed around whenever we move to a new place that shows the stages of adjustment. There’s a honeymoon stage, where everything seems new! and exciting! and did you see that?! Amazing! This quickly fades into hostility, as you start to realize that the locals may be friendly, but buying milk is going to take 3 hours and an advanced degree in linguistics. The hostility toward all the stupid ways people around you are doing things is supposed to ebb as your sense of humor returns and you make some friends who can show you the ropes. And finally, through time and effort or the discovery of cheap local booze, you feel at home. Or at peace. Or at least a bit buzzed.
I’ve certainly experienced these stages, but they have never happened in such a neat linear fashion. I feel like I run through most of them on a weekly basis, especially in the first few months. There are those days when you stumble into the perfect cafe, conquer the metro system and survive whatever gauntlet the local phone company throws down. You power down the weird supermarket aisles thinking I GOT THIS! I am WINNING the Amazing Race! Here’s to kicking this foreign country’s ASS!
And then 45 minutes later you get mugged on the train and forget how to say HELP! in the local language.
Then there are days that just feel like one long, slow grind against your very existence. Every effort at fulfilling basic needs is met with a roadblock. The bananas are different and the toilet paper is absurdly scratchy and the light switches don’t make sense and even the air you’re trying to breathe is just foreign. Every cell of your body bristles at the foreigness of it all, and it’s exhausting.
At the end of those days you crawl into bed and try to laugh about the absurdity of life. Then you make a plan. Sometimes the plan is simply “wake up tomorrow and survive.” Sometimes the plan is “book a trip to the Maldives, immediately.” But usually the plan is take a deep breath, get some rest, and get ready to kick this country’s ass again tomorrow.
(Aack! just realized this might imply that I was mugged! I was not. At least not in India, anyway. Just speaking generally about all the possible ups and downs of living in a new place!)