Someone recently asked me to explain the last year and a half here in Mexico. Someone who is looking at going on the mission field.
So I have been thinking about it. If I was to summarize it....crushed expectations.
I learned quickly that I was no longer in Nebraska, people didn't typically speak my language or understand my culture... and I didn't understand theirs at first (to be honest things still catch me off guard, so its a constant learning process)
During the first few months you learn so much about the culture. What foods to eat (and what foods not to eat), how to get around on public transportation, how to communicate without knowing the language, getting to know new people, setting up my house (my new home) the way I want it. I had to learn how and where to buy things-- which include how many pounds is a kilo, what a good price for fruit and veggies is (and learning about some new fruits and veggies), and how and where to buy tortillas. Everything is very exciting, very new... a great adventure!
The first couple months there were also a few times of loneliness (even with new friends)... I missed everyone back home. I was overwhelmed by a new language and new experiences. I felt inadequate and tired. I wondered why I was even in Mexico.
I typically never told anyone when I was feeling like that, but every time something would happen- usually something little that reminded me that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. Sometimes that happened with a letter or note from a friend back home, or a lady from the church stopping by to say hi (and usually a game of pictionary to be able to communicate), or just seeing the sunset over the volcanoes as a reminder of God's great love.
Even with those few times I felt an amazing amount of ease and comfort living in my new environment.
Sometimes the Mexican culture fells so foreign to me.... I was looked at funny or told I was doing something wrong for things that seemed so natural and easy to me! Taking my shoes off when entering a house... no you leave them on here! Instant rice and canned beans seemed easy to me... but they are meant to be cooked slow (with love, one woman said). Going to a grocery store alone... people don't really do that. Living by myself-- people didn't do that either.
I quickly learned that while the people that now surrounded me made very very little money, they overflowed with joy. Some people didn't have jobs or money to feed their children and people in the community helped them. They lived with love and passion... they care for people, for me... and they appreciate the simple gifts in life... hanging out and talking with people, the children, a chance to work (even if that meant commuting 2 hours each way each day), a helping hand.
In my mind some of them had a reason to be worried, sad and downcast, but usually they weren't. I have learned so much from them.
I slowly felt like I was (and am) learning a new way of living. I think God has been changing all my preconceived notions, all the old habits and thoughts that I believed to be normal or right into something new. Living in the states typically means materialism-- you don't think twice about walking into a mall or store and buying what you want (like spending $100 on new clothing) even when it is not needed. But, the reality is... it isn't needed and I understand more fully what $100 can do... like buy 6 wheelchairs for people who don't have one.
I love my new life.
I love my life even if sometimes I miss things from Nebraska. Sometimes I miss sitting and playing games with my friends (from the states) or watching sappy movies and eating ice cream, I miss going to the grocery store and buying the foods that I want, getting in a CAR and driving where I want to go. Sometimes I miss the reliability of water or electricity. I miss being able to drink tap water. I miss heat and sometimes air conditioning. There are even times when I miss the ability to blend in.
But the reality is... when I am in the states, I also miss being here! I miss walking to a friends house-drinking instant coffee and laughing and talking for hours, I miss the taco stands, the love that exudes from people here, I miss being woken up by the gas man or water man yelling as he is coming down my street, the comical relief my crazy neighbor gives me.
When I am in the states, sometimes I feel like I don't really belong there anymore.
I love that here I am taught by those I teach (sometimes I feel like I have been given more then I give). I love that I have the opportunity to share the love of God in a place that hasn't really experienced it. The want to make someones life better is much more attractive to me then the comforts that i miss.