As someone who has lived overseas for an extended period of time, I have had to learn both in books and in person the reality of new normals.  

When you first move to a new area there is the Honeymoon Period.  This is when everything is new and wonderful.  The differences between cultures are cute.  They make easy conversation with the family back home.  

But there is a wall coming.  This wall is often called Culture Shock.  It’s when we are finally overwhelmed by all the little differences.  Often missionaries will have a blow-up of some kind.  They may lose their temper.  They might get depressed.  However it expresses itself, it is an explosion (or implosion) of sorts.  It is like going off a cliff.  I knew this was coming when I lived in India.  I had read about the 7-week wall in much cross-cultural literature.  And even knowing that it was coming I was still unprepared for the strength of the emotions that accompanied it.  I lashed out at loved ones.  I pushed away our Indian family.  It was a tough moment to navigate.

I wish that the explosion of Culture Shock was the end of the struggle.  But it isn’t.  There is a phenomenon called Culture Stress.  This is simply the added stress of a different culture upon the everyday reality of living.  There is the normal reality of paying bills, but you gotta figure out the India way to do it.  I have to go grocery shopping, but I had to drive on the wrong side of the road to get to the store.  I read much less on Culture Stress than on Culture Shock.  Stress was a daily burden that bent the back of the walker, while Shock was the initial splash of water in the face.

I say all that to say this: We are in a new phase here in Covidland.  There was the Shock of the pandemic when it first hit.  There was the run on the grocery stores.  There was the immediate layoffs and changes to our workplaces.  It was so much at first.  We survived the Shock of these “unprecedented times.”  

We are living now in the constant Stress of this new reality.  School, grocery shopping, dating, entertainment, finding a job… all these parts of our lives are different.  It is a constant dripping in the back of our minds.  This Stress is a real thing.  I feel it.  I love Jesus, take time to pray and rest my life on His loving strength.  And still this Culture Stress weighs on me.  It weighs on all of us.  

I guess at the end of everything I am just saying you are not alone.  We all feel the burden of the times.  It means we might have to say sorry more.  It may mean giving grace to those we love.  It means being honest with ourselves and others.  It means reaching out when you feel the ground under your feet slip. 

This is hard.  Just because you feel the hardness does not make you weak.  It makes you human.  

Praying for you. 

Much love,
Ernesto Alaniz

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