Let’s Get Real


I thought it was time to speak frankly about Culture Stress.


Ok, now that’s off my chest.

So what does that nebulous fancy term mean?

I am referring to on the ground, down and dirty, soul-bearingly honesty.

Really, we had read a lot about this phenomenon before we came.

We even learned to “Don’t Ask Why.”

This was very good advice.  There is never a good answer for why people do things differently than you.   Other than remembering that they did not grow up with you.

It used to be called culture shock, until the powers that be decided that to be in vogue, a new word had to be coined.

I did experience shock when our Christmas tree lights exploded and left black residue on my hands and a slight tingling sensation in my left elbow.

I experienced stress when I found out I was pregnant, just about 6 weeks after arriving in a foreign land and before I knew how to say “pregnancy test” in Chinese.

I’m sure the pharmacy staff was laughing at me when I returned the next day and bought prenatal vitamins.

My husband experienced stress when he had to go back to the cell phone kiosk 3 different times to try to communicate that he wanted to put more money on his phone.

My kids experience shock when a stranger picks them up in the air and they are flailing their legs and screaming.  And the stranger is laughing.

I experience stress when I see that our 4 year old left two monstrous bite marks on our house-helper’s forearm.

And more stress as we try to figure out the balance between discipline, apology (in a language where we can barely say hello and excuse me), and questioning what drove our usually very easy-going middle child to such desperation.

When we stand on a curb in subzero (Fahrenheit) weather, mom with 3 kids and grossly pregnant, and taxi after taxi passes by waving “no” as we are desperate to get home from someplace far away.

When we were eaten alive by mosquitoes because all the window screams had holes in them.

Freudian typos might be a sign of stress too.  So I’ll leave it.

Complete illiteracy as we travel around our fair city–except for being able to read numbers and websites.

Being frightened out of our wits as cars silently creep up behind us on sidewalks, then honk loudly.

Jumping out of the way, into the path of a silent but deadly electric scooter.
Surviving that, tripping over a fellow pedestrian.

It’s a good thing we learn how to say “I’m sorry” very early on.

4 trips to porcelain markets (gotta love that term) to look for a bathtub not made out of wood, or gold, nor octagon shaped before we find a humble white model down Porcelain Alley in a drenching downpour.  The alley was a harrowing sprint-weave-dodge across the 19 lane highway from the more upscale Porcelain Mall with gold toilets on display in the showrooms.

Illness?  Influenza, gastroenteritis, colds, infected skin lesions.

Bedwetting?  Sometimes 3 wet beds a night–between two girls who are potty trained.

Marital stress?  A few doors slammed, lots of opportunities to ask for forgiveness–in both directions.

Discipline?  Envision 3 kids screaming, either in unison or together, non stop as we casually try to take them for a stroll through our neighborhood.

Accidents?  Nothing requiring stitches, thankfully.  But plenty of bruises on Lu Ming’s 2 year old forehead that every person on the elevator, park or on the sidewalk asks about.


What are we doing to our kids?  Taking them away from their family, their friends, their neighborhood, their language, their comforts.   Their macaroni and cheese.

Tears.  Of sadness, stress, anger, grief.

So.  There is a quick slide show of our lives over 7 months.

We have survived!


One response »

  1. Love you my friend—We are thinking of you constantly and with this last blog—our thoughts will be more clear. Your blog brought back so many memories of my 6 month stay in South America. But I was single at the time and only had myself to look after. Can’t imagine going thru it with a family.

    I’m not glad that you all are having challenges but I am glad to know what some of the challenges are-as well as-all of the great, neat and funny stuff you have shared!!!!
    I want to do or say something to encourage you but all that I can think about is what my one neighbor named Joshua says-“Instead of 1 child I could have 9.”

    I need to talk with him more to get more information.

    Love to you all!! Will try to keep in more frequent touch!!

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