Moving across the world with four kids last week has made me reflect a lot. Thankfully this isn’t my first time living overseas (I say thankfully because otherwise I would be freaking out right now). I am in a new-to-me country but this feels a little like having a third or fourth baby: I have a general idea of what to expect and a general idea of my own skills and limitations. I don’t mean by any stretch that I know the specifics of what to expect; I’m being delighted and frustrated by new things in a new place with new people speaking a new language. A lot of new things. But I do have an idea of what might be different and how I can respond to these differences with a sense of humor and at times, a sense of skill. To that end, I’ve been making a list of things I had forgotten over the past six years of living in my home culture.
I had forgotten about:
1. Carrying my own toilet paper, just in case. “Just in case” happens a lot.
2. Not flushing toilet paper in the toilet.
3. How long/how many trips to the same store basic errands can take.
4. How my back feels after sleeping on a mattress on the floor for four days.
5. What jet lag feels like. (It’s way worse with four kids.)
6. How impossibly confusing washing machine symbols are. (I’ve read a manual for a household appliance TWICE in four days.)
7. Needing to do mental math all the time (currency, temperature, distance, volume and weight are all measured differently here).
8. All the meaningful letters, affirmations and gifts I would receive upon leaving. I also literally forgot about these items until our second or third day, and finding them in my purse was such a gift.
9. The hot kitchen conundrum: no fan because of a gas stove but so hot without a fan.
10. Cold showers.
11. How bravery begets bravery (more on that later, but I’m learning this from my kids who are doing new things with courage every day and then are trying old things with new bravery).
12. How often I boil the kettle.
13. The taste of boxed/UHT milk.
14. How to pour out of a box without spilling.
15. Using charades when I don’t share a language with someone.
16. How glad I am to have my husband doing this with me.
17. How fun it can be to make a home in a new place, with radically different “raw materials.”
18. The incredible privilege of being a guest in another culture.
19. How much more I ask for help in a host culture, even in the little things. Maybe especially in a host culture where I am a guest.
20. Gas stoves. (How I love them!)
I’m sure I will keep bumping into things I had forgotten about. These forgotten-now remembered parts of life feel like old friends. It’s been a while and I’m not certain how well we will get along these days but I feel hopeful and happy to see.