A lot has transpired in the past 48 hours since I have arrived in Greece. While the late hour keeps me from sharing all that has transpired since I have arrived, I would like to share a lesson I am learning in arriving:
I am not a humble person. I pride myself on being self-reliant, and not needing to ask for help/figuring things out for myself. I also do not like being the center of attention, or more specifically, sticking out like I do not know what I am doing. I aspire to feel and appear adept at what I do. And I great pride in those things that I am, and shy away from those that I am inept in.
But in entering a foreign country, I have dived deep into a sea of being and feeling inept. Essentially, culture shock has hit. And boy has it hit hard.
I remember as we started training for this trip, there was discussion of culture shock. I remember thinking and sincerely believing that I would be one of the last ones to “break,” to be homesick. Wanting to head back home. Definitely not the first one in my Greece team.
And in starting the trip, I was feeling very confident. While not a frequent flyer, I have flown enough to be comfortable with the in and outs of air travel. Both our stops in the US went smoothly. We entered the Wichita airport with plenty of time to check our bags and grab a bite to eat. Hopping on our plane with no trouble, we arrived early to Chicago, where we killed our 6-hour layover with local pizza, board games, and plenty of walking around the colossal airport that is Chicago O’Hare. We entered our plane destined for Paris with no problem, and settled in for our 8+ hr flight. “Things are going well,” I thought.
But then we landed in Paris, and that is where the shock took hold. Stepping off of the plane in Paris for our layover, I was overcome with the realization that “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” (insert rolling of the eyes emoticon) I did not know the language, the customs, the expectations. Nor did I look like those around me. I was not adept at my surroundings. I began to worry about simple things, such as being able to understand the chaser as we order coffee to wake up from our jet lagged selves, or if my card would be declined in buying some European candy as a snack. While both interactions went well, I began to think “what am I doing here?”
This feeling intensified even more so as we landed in Greece. Ken, our local guide, picked us up from the airport, and drove us to our apartment. Many on our team found it difficult to stay awake, even as we navigated the crazy Grecian traffic, as any traffic laws here are merely suggestions for those on the road. Arriving at our our apartment, we unloaded our luggage and began to familiarize ourselves with the apartment we would call home for the next three weeks. After making sure we had all the bedding necessary for ourselves, Ken drove us to an authentic Persian restaurant, where we feasted on lamb kabobs and Persian rice as our first meal in Greece. All this time thinking “what am I doing?” and thinking “I can’t wait to go home.”
While our first couple of days have been relatively easy, with us having helped organized a storage facility for Helping Hands (the organization we will be helping in the weeks ahead) on Saturday (May 12) and attending a Greek Evangelical Christian church service this morning (May 13), this culture shock has continued to hit me, though it is slowly going away. But it has not happened to me in the way I have expected. While the language barrier is there, it is insignificant, since English is used as an informal secondary language here. So we have been able to order food with little issue. And neither has the food been an issue. While perhaps some has been a bit outside my comfort zone, it has been delicious, and at this point I believe that the food is likely going to be one the things I will miss the most (I don’t think I will ever look at Gyros the same way). But it has been the sticking out part that has been on my mind. Or rather, how I feel so inept. How I am not familiar with the cultural expectations, and are still getting to know the area. How I am not confident nor familiar with my surroundings. How I am in need of a guide.
And so in trying to come to a close (as my tiredness continues to grow) I am looking forward to learning the lessons God has for me in the days and weeks ahead. Three I will highlight as I close: One, being reminded that I need a guide, both here in Greece and in life, that being the Holy Spirit. So I hope to grow in listening to that guide we have a Christ-followers. Two is to walk in the path of humility. Realizing that I do not know everything, and the things that I believe I am adept at are really quite small in the scope of all things. And third, being willing to jump into the new experiences that await me, not focusing on how I am feeling, but rather to embrace the newness and awkwardness of it all. For it is often only after the experience that the lesson will then be revealed.