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  • Writer's pictureKris Freudenthal

Reverse Culture Shock

So I've been back in America for a little over a week. And every day I've been asked what it's like being back. I can answer that question in one word.... overwhelming!!

I never would have imagined just how different it all feels being "home" after only living in South Africa for a year. But man, oh man, is it different!! How, you may ask... Let me share with you some of the main things that have overwhelmed me very quickly since I've been back in Nashvegas, USA.

1. Lack of peace and quiet It may just be because I'm visiting my home country during the holidays, but I have struggled with the sheer lack of quiet. The go-go-go mentality is one I never recognized when I lived it every day. But now, it's beyond my capabilities! Every day it feels like the to-do list reproduced overnight. Back in South Africa I was lucky to get three errands taken care of in a day. But here in America, I "must" get at least three things done before lunch, at the very least! How did I live like this?! It was so overwhelming that I actually found myself hiding in the woods the other morning just to spend some time in the quiet of nature. I actually began to feel stifled, and was struggling in my heart to hear the "still small voice" I was so used to communicating with on the mission field. I now understand why it feels easier to connect to God in South Africa than here in America. It's not because of the environment or the people; it's simply the pace of life. There are far less distractions in my missionary life than in my American life. The ability to simply be still and know is so much easier to accomplish when so much less is required to meet life's expectations. I wish there was more of the slower pace here in America.

2. The amount of STUFF!! Oh my!! I struggled to adjust in South Africa to not being able to have everything I "needed" readily available to me when I first moved there. But I did adjust and began to like it. I found it helped me prioritize my needs from my wants and made everything I did get my hands on to be more valuable to me in the long run. The search for clothes that fit, shoes that didn't cost a fortune, food I was familiar with, cleaning supplies I wasn't allergic to, medicine similar to what I knew in my "former life"..... made everything I gathered in my home have its own story and purpose in my life. But the minute I landed on American soil I was surrounded by shops (in the airport), and ads, and commercials, and so many options it was overwhelming. I looked around the airport shops and thought "Who needs this stuff?!" When I made it home to my parents' house I was amazed at the stuff everywhere. And you can imagine my first trip to Walmart just a few days after arriving. It's not that American's are hoarders or anything. It's just the amount of stuff needed to live this crazy life is daunting to me because of how much effort it takes for me to acquire pretty much anything in South Africa. I found myself walking around yesterday wishing I had a way to ship boxes of this stuff back to SA to help everyone I know there. But of course, that's not possible.

3. People... everywhere! It's no secret to those of you who know me that I'm an introvert. I LOVE people, wholeheartedly. But I love them more in small doses (small groups and in short spurts). And in SA, that's easier to accomplish, the primary difference being that I live alone. I can give my whole heart during counseling sessions in the day time and go home and hibernate for a while and then, if I can, go back out to hang out with friends. Even when I'm walking around town running my few daily errands I generally only run into two or three people I need to chat with. It's a peaceful ebb and flow that works well for me. But here, in the ever-moving world of America, I'm surrounded by people. It may just be that Nashville has become so overpopulated in the past year, but I feel like there are so many people everywhere I go. So Many People! I run into people I know everywhere I go, which I love. But by the time I make it home I'm so tired from the social interactions that I don't have energy to process the day, leading to sitting up late thinking instead of sleeping. I am beginning to see why I had insomnia when I lived this life every day. Is it just me???

4. Love! So much love!! Man oh man! The amount of hugs and kisses and people wanting to see me is overwhelming and so, so powerful for this dry soul! It's seriously like balm on a wound! This year I've been so pulled and stretched that I've found myself struggling to believe others really care about me and what I'm going through. But being here only a week has corrected that lie immediately in my heart! Having people say things like "All I want is a Kristin hug" or "I cannot wait to see you" or "Man I've missed you" is like gold to a pauper! It's hard to get caught up with everyone, but the fact that so many people have actually missed me and taken the time to tell me... makes me tear up as I type this! So many days I felt alone and some-what lost. But knowing I had people back in America praying for me and supporting me in so many different ways kept me going. And knowing I was doing what I was doing because God asked me to helped me get up the next day and go again. But it didn't mean I didn't carry the emptiness with me sometimes. So to be here, surrounded by people calling me special, loved, appreciated, missed, a joy to be with, etc, etc..... is more than I know what to do with. I honestly feel like my cup is overflowing with love to pour out to those I miss in SA after just one week here. I wish I could find a way to keep this feeling while I'm away from USA. But in the meantime, I'm soaking up as much of it as I can get my hands on!!!

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