Last Friday was the first day I have felt much like myself in months, but certainly since we moved almost two weeks ago. I’ll explain about that more in a bit. First, let me explain in embarrassing detail just how out of sorts I’ve been.
To start, I’ve struggled with all the normal things you’d expect: losing stuff, forgetting details, needing extra sleep…you know the symptoms of fatigue. But alarmingly, I’ve also found myself behaving in ways I wouldn’t back home.
One day while Chris was away, we were walking back to the apartment. I was exhausted from the day’s demands and ready to crash on arrival. As we closed in, Jonathan asked me if I had seen a man lying on a bench behind us. I said no. Jonathan was concerned because the man didn’t look like he was resting. I glanced back and decided the man was just resting in the heat and hurried us into the apartment complex. Later, when we left the building, we saw ambulances leaving the area where the man had been lying. I was horrified that I hadn’t intervened in some way.
Culture shock is a real thing. You feel numbed and operate in survival mode. It’s easier to block out anything that doesn’t concern you in the environment because there is just so much to process. What troubled me was my belief that I am doing well with the adjustment, while this episode highlighted that I am struggling.
Normal Dyana (if she even exists) notices details around her that others often dismiss; especially about people. One time, I noticed a woman silently choking in a bustling IKEA cafe because of my habit of scanning my environment. I was able to perform a Heimlich maneuver for that woman, but here, I walked right next to a man in distress without even noticing him. Even worse, it was easy as an outsider to shift responsibility to the locals for helping him. I didn’t know how to call emergency services if needed and what were the odds that something was really wrong??!! That is NOT typical thinking for me.
This horror-inducing realization drove me to make immediate change. First, I prayed and asked God to help me see what is around me so that I can love and serve the people here. Second, I learned how to call for emergency services.
Later that night, we saw an elderly man get hit by a taxi at the same intersection….really! He immediately received aid, but I was ready to help this time (thankfully, he walked away unscathed)!
A personal overhaul was in order, so I scaled back some of our activities and adopted a slower pace. One delightful discovery was Ang Mo Kio Park. The young’uns went there to burn off energy and I soaked in some quiet renewal.
We discovered some happy facts about this park near to our home: 1) it has one of the few dog parks on the island, 2) it has a happy McDonald’s sitting right on the Kallang river, and 3) it is soul-blessingly beautiful.
Jonathan, Michael and Ariana ran until they were satisfied and we headed over to check out the Singapore McDonald’s. We narrowly avoided the Durian McFlurry push at the counter and escaped with some plain old soft drinks and chocolate shakes.
As our schedule slowed, we were able to connect with some of our loved ones back home. Much of ourselves is defined by our relationships; who we love and who loves us. Reaching out helped ground all of us in healthy ways. We have been trying to connect with someone back home every day since.
Walking has provided me with essential time for reflection and space from the hurry of this island. Getting away to trails and parks allows me to pray and think with greater clarity. With more of those opportunities, I am recovering parts of myself from the culture shock.
The Best for Last
The week ended with Chris coming back from Paris. His return felt momentous and wonderful. We enjoyed another uplifting service at International Baptist Church and then were blessed by a special invitation.
We learned from one high school friend that another friend of ours was also living in Singapore. Their family invited us over for an American meal of ribs and macaroni and cheese. Our children delighted in the tastes and sounds of home as southern aromas and accents wafted through our Asian surroundings. By the time we left, we felt we had friends in Singapore and hope that in a year we won’t be quite as unsettled.
The week ended more hopefully than it began. Each week will get easier and we will have more stories to share. Thanks for following along with us!