I can hardly believe it, but I have been living in Cape Town for nearly six weeks. Saturday will mark the milestone. All is going well. I continue to work hard on the Anglicans Ablaze study guide booklet. I’m beginning to meet with local and provincial youth leaders so that we can start building relationships. I participated in my first Rooted in Jesus training, and on Saturday I will start the Mission Shaped Ministry course, in the hopes that Growing the Church will have the opportunity to help start a Fresh Expressions of Church at a local university.
On the home front, I have moved into a lovely flat, opened a bank account, subscribed to an ISP, and started grocery shopping on my own. I bought a car earlier this week, and I’m beginning to drive. (Today I drove on the motorway for the first time!) I am spending a lot of time with my South African friends and getting to know them and their families better. I enjoy this time the most, and I am learning loads about South African culture from them.
I am also beginning to miss the familiar—my family, my friends, my church, food, the shops, Starbucks, an active social life, work that was routine, tennis, kickboxing, walks around my neighborhood, grocery stores with aisles of choices, houses that aren’t gated in with fences and barb wire and locked up with burglary bars, walks in the parks, the freedom to come and go as I please by myself, my puppy-nephew, taxis that abide by traffic rules, words spelled with z‘s and not s‘s.
There are many things that I love about my new culture; others I find rather strange. No doubt my feelings indicate the birth pangs of culture shock, which is just a natural part of the process of living in another country. During my missionary training at MTI, we were warned about the phase of culture shock and were prepped for it. I think being aware of this phase is key and will make going through the process much easier than if I didn’t know otherwise. The most important thing about culture shock is not getting stuck in it. Equally important, I believe, is not blitzing through it, trying to escape the discomfort. I’m praying for the courage to live into the culture shock, to acknowledge the discomfort, to reflect deeply on my home culture and on my adopted culture, to emerge on the other side as a person who can live healthy and happily in both of her worlds.