Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New definitions of NORMAL

(From inside the blue mosque in Istanbul, Turkey)

There's something that happens when you live in a foreign country- things start seeming "NORMAL." I must admit that this term, without me knowing it, has taken on a different definition over the last few years, especially considering how people use it to define what a "normal life" is. (what does that even mean, anyway?) This would partly explain my absence from the blogging world. This is honestly what I thought at times.... "how can I fill up a blog with even more stuff when I can't think of anything ABNORMAL to write about?"

To catch everyone up to speed, I'm actually writing this post from my old alma-mater, the University of Oklahoma (BOOMER!). To be exact, I'm sitting in the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Garden- a nostalgic place for me- I fondly remember multiple stressful moments of last minute cramming for college exams and other college antics on this part of campus (I hope all the former OU phi lamb officers are giggling with me on that one...). Here's a picture just taken from my computer:

Back to the topic at hand.... Here's something I've noticed since I've been back from Bosnia: things that used to seem ABNORMAL to me have all of a sudden seemed NORMAL, and things that used to be NORMAL seem all of a sudden ABNORMAL. The former would be identified as cultural immersion (possibly a post for another time?) and the latter (what I find to be incredibly amusing), reverse culture shock.

Some examples of reverse culture shock:

Grocery Store Breakdowns! The grocery store is a common place for reverse culture shock. The culprit for me?? The bottled water aisle!
Really people???? Do we really need an entire aisle of bottled water? Isn't Antartica filled up with the remnants of this??

What originally was planned to be a quick trip turned into an excruciating decision... "Do I get bubbly water or non-bubbly? Mineral or spring? Store brand or fancy brand? 6 pack, 12 pack, 2 pack, or one bottle? Flavored or non-flavored? And why in the world is the gallon less expensive than the 20 ounce???"

I later braved the SAME grocery store again thinking I was ready. I planned to buy some fruit to compliment my lunch, then was in shock at the size of a peach!!! I actually stopped someone in the store and vented.... "Really????  This can't be natural!!!"

I ended up buying one to eat and another one for show and tell. I was sad most people weren't impressed with my "discovery." 

Here... take my bag.... I went into a large office building and there was a security guard at the door. Without thinking about it, I automatically walked directly to them, pulled off my backpack, and started to take out my laptop so they could look at it. The security guard looks at me, laughs, and assures me he doesn't need to search my bag. Apparently I travel too much....

Another passport stamp please!!! I've been driving back and forth from Texas and Oklahoma quite a bit. The drive usually takes around 3 1/2 hours to go from McKinney, Texas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The first time I crossed the border, I felt flustered, thinking, OH NO! I FORGOT MY PASSPORT! Do you get it? I thought I would need to get it stamped before crossing over into Oklahoma, cause that's the NORMAL thing, right? Get a stamp as you cross a border? Then, it hit me... oh yeah... I probably won't be getting a stamp from the Sooner state anytime soon. That is, of course, Texas does something crazy like secede! 

So... what do you have? While sitting a Mexican chain-restaurant, the waiter hands me a menu. I glance at it for about 2 seconds, toss it aside, and ask "So... what do you have today?" Meaning... I know you handed me this menu, and these are your food options, but NORMALLY restaurants don't really have ALL this food back there. So, what do you really have available today? He looked at me a bit puzzled, named some things, then told me to look at the menu. Oooooh..... Is  that what that thing is for? 

"I can't today- I have a coffee.For anyone who has lived in Sarajevo, this is a normal statement. Why? The word "coffee" is not just a drink, but an event! If you want to say you want to spend time with someone in Sarajevo, you'll say something like this: "Idemo na kafu." Which translated directly says "let's go on coffee." So, after my brother asked me if we could do lunch, I naturally replied with this NORMAL sentence: "Sorry, I can't! I have a coffee!" He thought that was as good of an excuse as washing my hair. 

(this is what came with the coffee in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina. When you do the conversion, I paid about 85 cents for this package.) 

Am I on an episode of the Bachelorette?  Ok, time for a bit more personal one! First, a sidenote- as a disciple of Jesus Christ, I base my definition of "available bachelors" on one core condition: "Does he lead and inspire me to love God on a deeper level?"  While the abilities to give great back massages, climb mountains, have a strong jaw line, (I know, I know... super important, right?) and grill a "mean" salmon and asparagus are up there up there, this is the first characteristic I'm looking for. Secondly, the church I attend in Sarajevo has anywhere from 10-20 people that currently attend weekly, and at most will have 0-2 1/2 available "bachelors" in attendance. So... with that background... imagine this:

I arrived in the states on a Friday evening and stayed with one of my BFF's in Washington D.C. Well, my arrival coincided with a surprise birthday party for one of the guys of the church they attend. To set up the scene, on the exact evening of my arrival to the states, I went to a birthday party that started at 2:30 A.M. my time (HELLOOO jet lag!) that not only had a plethora of Mexican food (mmmmmmm!!!) but also had more available "bachelors" in attendance than the total amount of people that attend my church in Sarajevo! Plus... shocker.. they were speaking ENGLISH!!! After getting over the initial shock factor of it all, I decided to embrace my loopy-sleepless state, enjoy a few too many chips and salsa, and laugh at the "NORMAL" experiences my life puts me in. :)

This doesn't include my driving habits (Oooh... so we don't honk at everyone we pass??? Why is he saying I'm "number one?"), common courtesies (You mean I don't have to interrupt people to get a word in?), and my deteriorated ability to speak English (prepositions are over-rated anyway!). Just know that when you live and work cross-culturally, the adventure and cultural mishaps don't end once your feet hit your NORMAL "home" country again. (again, wherever that is).

Till next time,


Hannah said...

Humorous and insightful...as always. Glad to have you back on the blogosphere, Kat! I truly do hope to meet you one of these days :).

Anonymous said...

Kat, I have a son now living in Sarajevo and i would love to email you. Please let me know how to do that. becca slough

I have many questions and i too love Jesus.

Beth W said...

Hahahaha....So Kat, I've been reading your blog over the last few days. You are a really good writer. Reading it reminds me a lot of having a conversation with you. You make me laugh out loud several times and in the end you always have something very insightful and wise to say

BTW, I'm really glad that giving good back massages made the list of important qualities for a future husband :)