Sometimes this life we’ve been called to is rough. So rough that even a place like Italy can seem drab when you’re trudging through the grief process that is culture shock. I can finally recognize the beauty in the country around me now after 1.5 years of living here. It was there but the cloud of difficulties involved in the transition to life here enveloped me so that most times I couldn’t see it.
We still have days that are rough. Like grief that comes with any major loss, the fact that you left your previous life to live and work in a foreign culture is never something you forget. Instead, you go through stages and cycles that include the whole range of emotions and reactions. On one of my worst days about a year ago I exclaimed loudly in public that I hated this place, much to Jon’s dismay. I’m not proud of that moment, but I’m human and it happened. I wasn’t “good” that day (for reasons so wonderfully articulated here if you care to read more on why) because it was a REALLY bad culture day.
Thankfully, there are good days too and they seem to outnumber the bad the longer you stay. This past week we had a really good culture day. We are finally developing real friendships with local Italians here – mostly through our church. On Tuesday night we were invited to dinner in an Italian home. Such invitations are not easily extended as it is uncommon for Italians to have non-family members to their home. So we were honored. It proved to be a great night as we enjoyed each other’s company over the wonderful meal they prepared. At one point our friend even took pity on me and stopped to give a lesson in how to twirl the pasta around my fork the Italian way for easier ingestion! The most exciting part was realizing when we left at midnight (true to Italian form where dinners run long and late into the night) that we had held conversation in Italian with our gracious and patient hosts for 5 hours! That’s reason to celebrate when this is the life you lead!
It is encouraging to see how far we’ve come in the time we’ve been here. And on the bad days we try to remember the good ones. Either way, God has called us here and that gives us the resolve to stay until He calls us elsewhere!