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We're not in the South anymore Toto!
Actually, I'm not in Colombia or Australia anymore. It's quite a strange feeling of one day living in one country and then in a matter of hours find yourself living in another country. It starts out feeling like a holiday and then quickly reality sets in... this is more than holiday; this is life.
Getting accustomed to a new set of cultural cues is something, I'm convinced, I will never master. You see, when you arrive in a foreign country you don’t even know what you don’t know. My ‘cultural suitcase’ looks very different to what it looked like when I arrived in the United States, and that ‘cultural suitcase’ looked very different to the one I took to Colombia. I have arrived in every place with a bag full of previous experiences. These experiences will both help and hinder me as I live and learn in another part of this world.
We have been in Edinburgh for two months. Cam is hard at it. He leaves the house early and often returns around dinner time. He treats his studies like a job (that sounds weird, because it is his current job), and though I’m sure has his own unique set of insecurities about our new home, my day to day is somewhat different. Unlike Cam, I do not have any place to ‘go’ to every day. I think my life will need to be much more intentional. I will need to actively pursue life here. If not, Calvin and I could easily stay at home every-single-day and not take advantage of the opportunity before us. I know it will be easy for me to talk myself out of doing things – ‘I don’t want to catch a bus’, ‘I don’t want to walk there,' ‘It’s going to take too long to do,' ‘It’s too cold,' and on and on and on it could go.
The more I reflect on this, the more I remember how each move was different. When I moved to Colombia, I was single and highly motivated to get a job so I could get a visa to stay in the country. I remember feeling excited and thrilled about knocking on those employer doors. I had a plan. Five years later I left that country married and a qualified teacher. I describe Colombia as the best Christmas present a child could ever open. It was more than I could have ever imagined. Moving to the United States definitely shook me up. This was the first time in my life that I moved somewhere not for me. Initially, I had no job to get ready for and no friends to talk to. I describe the United States as helping me get a grip on (again and again) where my identity is found. Moving to Scotland, I am not quite sure what I am going to learn, and how it will change me.
That being said, one things I do know is that we all have our ‘cultural suitcase.' You may not have packed up experiences from living in another country, but we all come with our own cultural experiences, our own cultural baggage. This may be your family culture, your town/city culture or your church culture. All of these are a part of who you are and contribute to every conversation and relationship you have today. It is a mysterious thing when people from completely different cultures can show grace to one another. You may not completely understand your friend, but you are able to learn and understand something different from yourself through him or her.
Yes – I may need to catch a bus, walk, allow for more time, and wear a hat, scarf and mittens, but I know, just like everywhere else I have lived, by the time it comes to pack up another ‘cultural suitcase,' there will be people, places, joys and sorrows that will prepare me for my next experience. Until later... I’m off to catch a bus!