When visiting a culture different from our own, we open ourselves up to the phenomena called "Culture Shock." This fish out of water feeling can emerge as a subtle discomfort, a fascination, or(in its most severe form) a slap in the face challenging our basic understanding of reality. Though the term is mostly used when speaking of visiting foreign places... far away and distant lands only traveled to by plane, or train, or boat, or automobile (or hot air balloon, spaceship, hover craft, you get the gist)...I have found I suffer culture shock much closer to home.
He puzzles me, this constant companion who helps raise the children. I watch him at the kitchen table going over spelling words. He is strict, and effective. I keep waiting for him to kick back and give up, to smoke a cigarette and plan his escape. This one doesn't smoke. (anymore... he quit when he became a father, go figure. It's weird here, I told you!)
When he tells us he's going out to get some milk, he comes back with it. Imagine! We don't have to drive around all night looking. And then? And then he does the most amazing thing. He drives back into the driveway, walks into the house, and puts the milk away in the refrigerator. Brilliant!
I am confused and moved by the things my children say in this fatherland place: "Daddy will fix it." and "Daddy will know." and the ever confounding "Tell daddy!" when something exciting happens. Tell daddy? Is there a daddy here to tell? Oh, yes, I forgot.
Perhaps the thing that still makes me question the reality of my situation, are the thunderstorm nights when the children come into bed and want him, not me. Apparently fathers in fatherland have super anti lightning force fields. AND THEN when they fall fast asleep in his safe arms, I watch with a stupid and slack expression as he picks them up and carries them back to their rooms and they throw their little arms around his neck and he kisses their heads. Let's be clear, these actions are not for my benefit, they seem to come from a place of... love and responsibility, or love of responsibility. It confounds me. I swear. I feel so lost.
I didn't live here. Fatherland was a foreign place that I thought and was taught was filled with smelly socks and too much dreaming to stay. Fatherland was sold to me as a damaged place, Chernobyl like, a myth... an unattainable destination. And who would want to visit anyway?
How wrong we were! I feel out of place here, that's for sure, but the scenery! My god, the view. Do visit. It's one of those places that makes you call a real estate agent. Can I have a timeshare? A condo? Can I stay?
"I love you." he said and meant "it will be you first, forever, all about you."
"I love you." I said and wondered if love would ever mean constancy.
"I do." he said and meant forever.
"Me too." I said and wondered how long it would take for him to leave.
He doesn't seem to have a fleeing spirit.
In fatherland, vows mean something. Crazy. I guess it's up to me to try and conform. I'm outnumbered anyway. And like I said, though strange, it's growing on me.
I'm only glad I didn't know the truth when I was small. It might have broken me. There is a time and place for ethnocentrism, that's for sure.
I grew up in "itiswhatitisland" and I waited for my father person everyday. He didn't come. For that reason and because it is only natural to want better for our children, I'll make a go of this fine country. So far everyone has been very welcoming and eager to teach me the language.
Oh, and I LOVE the food.