Okay, it is time. The homesick wave has hit the shore!
Today I just wanted to go home. And as I am writing this my hands are shaking and the tears are burning behind my eyes. I just feel like I can’t do this anymore. I have been away for almost half a year now and I am starting to miss more and more things from home. Half a year is long. I haven’t talked to my parents in three weeks because they are on a holiday and I just miss talking to them so much! My internship is so much harder than I thought it would be and I often feel like I am not the right person to do it. That I am not good enough for this task. Writing always makes me feel better so here we go.
I wrote this last Monday. It is Thursday now and things have changed a lot.
A few days ago I talked to Gary to tell him I did not think I could make the videos anymore, because I felt like I did not have the right skills to do it. I can come up with ideas, I can write scripts and edit the video, but everything else in between is just not my kind of thing. If there is one thing I’ve learned during this internship is that I should focus on writing, not making videos. And I think that’s a good thing. I’ve had this nervous feeling for a while already and I really kept struggling with the work I had to do. So on Thursday evening Gary came to our house and we took a long walk through the neighborhood to talk. I told him I really wanted to change my tasks and let the videos go. I wanted to write! And do social media! I would not be happy if I had to keep struggling to make professional videos for the next three monts, because I am not a video professional. And I am not someone who gives up easily, because I tried for five months. But that is also something I’ve learned at this internship: if you don’t talk, nothing will change. Thank God Gary understood and together we decided to make some new arrangements!
So now that my intership tasks have shifted from making videos to writing scripts, developing social media campaigns and writing reports with all the information a future video maker might need, I am a lot more happy now. I am actually very proud of myself for expressing my concerns and with my new job I look forward to the next three months!
But now there’s another thing: my homesickness is not gone yet. And I am not saying that I want to go home, because I don’t. But it does get worse. And I am also not saying I would not be able to live here for another year when I’ve graduated – because that is a possibility -, but I am saying it is not easy. While I was in school for my minor, we had a class about the Culture Shock Curve. At that time I thought it was pretty hilarious, because I loved Guatemala and I was sure I would never get homesick. I thought I knew everything about life in Guatemala and that a culture shock would not happen to me. But unfortunately, it is now happening to me. And that’s okay. It is okay to miss home and to suddenly be aware of the strange culture you’re in. You can tell yourself you’re fine and that you completely feel at home in your new culture and whatever, but it happens to everybody. One might experience it in the first weeks of transitioning, the other experiences it after months. But everyone will go through this. If you want it or not.
So this is how the curve looks like:
The curve has five stages:
- Stage #1: Honeymoon
This is the stage when everything is new and exciting. Of course, I experienced this when I arrived in my beautiful Guatemala after a long, long trip. The feeling of oh my gosh, I live in Guatemala now was real for sure! I loved to go into the city and see new things, to meet new people, to learn more about the culture and to have the feeling I was perfectly adjusting to this new country.
- Stage #2: First anxiety
My honeymoon actually only lasted for two weeks, because yay, I got robbed! And that’s when I got to know the bad side of Guatemala and the endless, exhausting and unfair process of dealing with the authorities. Police officers that didn’t want to cooperate, the immigration office that dragged me through hell and back to get my visa, filling out an endless amount of paperwork for the insurrance, passport and creditcard and figuring out how and when on earth I could go back home. Living in a foreign country was not as easy as I thought.
- Stage #3: First adjustment
But as time passes by, even when you lose everything, it will slowly go back to normal. My parents came over, I got my laptop and creditcard back, we could borrow a new camera and eventually I got a passport with a new visa. I actually felt like I got everything back on track again. There was nothing that could throw me off my feet anymore. Guatemala and I were a perfect fit after all.
- Stage #4: Second anxiety
But then questions come up that you actually never thought about and you find yourself slowly sliding back in a second phase of anxiety. And that is where I am now. The people at AMG seriously ask me if I want to come and work for them next year and for now, I think I want to. But when? For how long? How do I get paid? Can I actually live here for so long? What if I find a job at home? Can I be without my family even longer than I am now? What am I going to do? All this questions give me so much anxiety that I start to miss home too. Am I willing to give all of that up for a job on the other side of the world? It is not an easy question for a 22-year-old, you know. The more I think about it, the more things I miss from home. A walk through the neighborhood, saying hi to the cows on the other side of the highway, eating dinner with my family, drinking tea with my mother after a long day at school, having my own bed and room again, eating whatever and whenever I want, Dutch television programs, certain foods, being able to speak my mother tongue all day… For now, yes, I want to live in Guatemala. But I need a lot more answers before I can actually take that step.
- Stage #5: Second adjustment
Stage four will end one day, I am sure of that. And it probably won’t take long for me to accept that I will always miss one of my countries. I am sure that I will cry my eyeballs out in December and that when I am home, I will feel depressed and scared for a while. I will always miss one side of the ocean. No matter how long I am going to live here. I talk to people that have been here for years and even they miss home sometimes. But I think a lot of these people are in stage five right now and I am still stuck in stage four. They have accepted their situation and they have figured out what they want, I haven’t. Yet. It is a complicated world that I’ve created for myself and it might take a while to find the answers to find out what is best for me. Moving to Guate? Sure. But not yet.
Does this sound familiar to you? I think it is actually really helpful to be aware of this curve and I have learned that everyone who lives in a foreign culture for a while has to go through this process. And people who deny that might still be stuck in the honeymoon phase. But one day, you have to face your fears and feelings and accept that it is okay to be confused and to miss home. Yes, I miss home. And I am perfectly fine with that.
The picture in this article was made by Evgeni Tcher.