Questions

Ever since the wedding, I have been inundated by a sea of questions. That’s to be expected during the first few weeks of marriage, especially in a situation like ours, where many of the basics (for example—where are we going to live long-term) haven’t been determined. But sometimes I find myself saying inside, Can we just ease into married life, please?

There are three questions I am asked a lot and would like to address:

  • What is my new name? Legally, I’m not changing my name—at least not now. It’s just too complicated to change my Abstract Bridename, when my visa and South African paperwork are all in my maiden name. Socially, I will style myself as Nicole Corlew Curtis. We’ll see how long I can keep that up since it is a bit of a mouthful.
  • Am I still a missionary? And if so, can one still donate to my missionary account via SAMS? Yes, my status as a SAMS missionary with Growing the Church isn’t changing. Everything remains the same, including my ministry work and my need to raise my own support. And yes, people who want to support my ministry can still donate to my missionary account through SAMS. (Thank you!)
  • What is married life like so far? This is a hard question to answer! It is wonderful and full of joy. It is a transition to be sure, especially when you marry later in life as we did and have been used to doing life on our own. I am rather surprised to find the joy and challenge in the detail—getting used to sharing a bed with another person, having extra help around the house, traveling together to church, making meals for each other, coordinating schedules. I am reminded of what Fr. Leigh Spruill said in his homily for our wedding: A wedding is like the incarnation of Christ. It is only the beginning. And it is true—our wedding is only the beginning of our marriage, and it takes time for two lives to weave into one.

Adapting

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.

 CarOn 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.