People ask me if I’ve gotten “over” the reverse culture shock of coming back to the States. Let me say first that there are different levels of “reverse culture shock”. The time when I came back from my first trip to Thailand – after spending 10 weeks on the Thai-Burma border – I experienced a different kind of culture shock.
Now, coming “home” feels different now, but I wouldn’t call it reverse culture shock. I don’t really consider it coming “home” anymore. Where is “home” anyway? As I said before, it feels like weird “fit” to be back. But this “feeling” is not something I want to get over, nor do I think it would be possible to get over it. It is a certain tension of living that is hard to explain but within which I’ve grown to thrive.
In the last post about re-entry I mentioned something about all the SPACE here in America. It is huge and vast compared to what I have been used to. I’m not just talking about the wide open Western states, but the parking lots at malls with all the little grassy areas and anemic trees in between, and the areas of land just not being used for anything except to add more space between the already spacious malls.
I remember when I first arrived in China I recalled the first lines of the movie “Crash” where Don Cheadle’s character says something like people in L.A. crash into each other for some human contact. In Chinese cities, you have to adapt to very quickly to living in little space with many people. I was constantly “crashing” into people even though I felt like I had no real human contact. It was all totally foreign. Once I got back to the States the words from the movie made more sense in the middle of these isolating spaces.
But don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the space to breathe and move. The beautiful running spaces – even in the middle of the day. I just drove from Grand Rapids to Atlanta and was at times nearly intoxicated by the spring green spaces along the broad, smooth tarmac. There are quiet spaces between houses; even the space within the homes buffers us from each other.
There is a balance of space that hasn’t been attained in either place. But I’m at the very least grateful for the seemingly unlimited space on the Web that allows me to write about it here.
The photo posted above is one I took during rush hour on a busy downtown street in Kunming. Can you see the traffic light way up in the distance?