No one told me there would be Snickers bars in grocery store checkout lines.
Even after months of rolling my eyes at assumptions about my future home in Kenya, I think I subconsciously bought into it.
No, I wasn’t going to live in a hut with the Masai. But did I know that less than 24 hours after arrival I’d hear the latest Maroon 5 song on the radio? No. Did I know I’d be watching the latest Kristen Stewart movie released in theaters? No.
OK, so I’d hoped I’d leave some things behind. No such luck.
I think a part of culture “shock” or whatever you want to call it is the jarring sight of familiar things in unfamiliar places.
Like the Snickers.
Or it’s the unexpected joy of finding that one thing you’ve experienced abroad before that you could never quite find the American equivalent to.
No one near me in the Heathrow Starbucks had any idea I positively quivered with excitement when I glanced at the menu and saw “flat white” – it’s like a latte, but oh, so much better. I first discovered the drink in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s all in the name, but I’d never found a replacement.
As a traveler, I’ve never waxed nostalgic for the good ol’ ballpark hot dog and apple pie. But that doesn’t have to be the tough part. The “shock” can be in the extremes. The definite lack of something – or, on the flip side, the giddiness of finding something you don’t have back home.
For me, culture shock can lie on the roller coaster in between.
I’ve been in Nairobi almost a week. I’ve written this post through power outages No. 21 and 22 (and counting). I saw my first wild monkey. I’ve enjoyed Kenyan pilau (rice with spices and meat), chapatti (bread) and mandazi (donuts). I’ve eaten more Indian food – and unbelievable naan (see right) – than I’ve had in a year.
In one afternoon, I saw Kibera, the largest slum in Africa (see stylized photo below); the shiny downtown skyscrapers; and the lush hills lined with the walled estates of the wealthy.
I’ve experienced the infamous traffic, both as a vehicle passenger and as a pedestrian.
The quip, “So many pedestrians, so little time,” comes to mind …
I still have a week of SIM orientation left, but I’m pretty sure life orientation is going to last the whole time I’m here. Missionaries with decades of experience under their belts tell me it lasts a lifetime.
So, in other words, I should prepare for at least a year on a perpetual learning curve?
Bring it on.