Sometimes Culture Shock is Sneaky
There used to be a saying. "This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs." First the commercial showed an egg and then a fried egg. I do not have a poker face. This is my face. This is my face on culture shock. This is me trying to process when my romantic ideals of my children blending in and being best friends with Ugandan children are being shattered. What you can't see is my son gripping our bag with my wallet in it. I imagine westerners are few and far between here.
I was processing that my son couldn't relax and I was processing that we were being looked at and people were bringing fruits and goods to be auctioned for the offering--, wait, what? The priest auctioned the goods and then they put the money in the offering bag. I had not experienced this before. Everyone experiences different culture shock. These are a few of my thoughts on how, even five years later, culture shock can sneak up on me.
When we first moved back to our country of origin, I would regularly cry in the most awkward circumstances, and it was always because cultures would intersect in strange places. I would just short circuit. Once, my kids had a Scholastic book sale, which was overwhelming at the time because Ugandans are mostly an oral society or don't have resources for books. I was in the elementary school library and saw a book called A Walk for Water, and it looked like what we just lived through. I couldn't stop crying. It was a chore to adjust back!
Another example is the concept of market. We even have the best place on the planet called The Fresh Market. They play classical music, you can get coffee samples and in peace and quiet get your products. You could translate this to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.... I would like to say, really, these are Sanitized Markets... they look nothing like we experienced in Uganda except when we would go to the capital and there were westernized stores available. Those stores would come close.
Here is the entrance to my local market and yes, the fresher market is not so sanitized! My mom once commented that things are overstimulating for the westerner... we had to look 360 to drive in these places.
You bring your own bag or you can wrap in paper or banana leaves.
Here is a jackfruit seller. I always thought this is where Star Wars got their inspiration--in the tropics! So, you can imagine my surprise when I started seeing this fruit in the store this year! We have been back five years and I got teared up in the store. I didn't know where to put the feeling that a jack fruit brought up--surprise culture shock!
In Uganda, we had a beautiful passion fruit vine and could buy them in the market to make juice. First there is this exotic flower and then it becomes the green or purple fruit. It took a long time to strain and prepare. So, to my surprise, there in my U.S. store are the same fruits I got to know in Uganda. Presented in a very different manner.
In Uganda, you could ask the person to pick for you and they would ask when were you preparing and get the perfect fruit or vegetable for when you need it. I never went to the market in France, but I once read they do that too.
Banana's are king in Uganda. There are many varieties and choices and it is very hard work to get them to the market. People also have their own trees in their garden. Like an orchard. So, I was quite surprised to find the small variety I had only known in Uganda show up in my grocery store. Delayed culture shock. At least I don't burst in to tears any more.
Contrast with my market. Dole is king in the U.S.
Finally, I don't have culture shock when I see pineapples although I am extremely proud I can pick a winner every time after three years of learning in Uganda. They come from a bush! We would get them from a bicycle coming in from the field, if we could because they were more fresh. You can get the idea of the contrast. Culture shock is for real, even years down the road!