Change Yourself…Change The World.

What To Do With Culture Shock/Homesickness
October 1, 2009, 3:45 am
Filed under: Paraguay, Travel Tip

Dear friends,

Well, I’m not going to lie. Adjusting to Paraguay is very difficult for me. It is a very isolated place, and I feel very far away from everyone and everything I care about right now. I am living with two people who I am not sure about yet, in a very big and empty house that makes me feel nervous. I am unsure about what to think about this internship so far. The locals seem unfriendly, and it is dark and cold outside (the biggest problem I have with Paraguay is that I was told it would be very hot here- and it is exactly the opposite. I am definitely not a ‘cold’ person, and that has been the hardest part about adjusting here).

How to combat this? Well, it seems that I am going through some severe culture shock. For the first two days I laid in bed and felt pretty miserable. I slept a lot, talked to friends on the internet, and refused to even unpack my bag- I didn’t want to admit to myself that this was the place where I was going to call home for the next two months.

On the third day (today), I started my internship. I couldn’t even muster up the energy to feel enthusiastic about it. These all pointed to bad signs for me. I needed to do something about it. So I marched right on home and fully unpacked all of my bags. I fixed the heater in my room so that I wasn’t lying in my bed in my warmest clothes shivering. I found out today that instead of paying $800 for 2 months, I only have to pay $600, which means another $200 in my pocket from my tuition. I decided instead to spend $100 of those dollars on things that will make my room feel more homey- maybe I’ll buy a lamp, a nice rug, and some pictures to hang up so that it doesn’t seem so bare.

In my opinion, this is the best way to combat culture shock. ‘Settling in.’ It is a very important step, especially if you are living in a country for awhile. You have to make it your home, literally. I went out today and bought all kinds of groceries for cooking. I bought rice, eggs, pasta, and flour to make bhale (tibetan bread). I bought all kinds of delicious fruits and vegetables (star fruit, kiwi, plums, carrots, lettuce, scallions, red and white onions, garlic, red and green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, hearts of palm), and spices like cumin, kaffir leaves, and black pepper (the upside about Paraguay is how cheap everything is- I bought all of this for about 30 dollars, on top of the fact that fruits are imported here). I bought all of this because I needed to feel like I was at home. I needed to feel like I was staying here for awhile, that all of this food I was buying was going to be consumed, that the lightbulbs I bought for the lamps in my room were going to be used- I dragged a desk and a chair into my room to set up a working space. I found a seamstress down the street to mend my pants. I took my laundry to a laundromat.

Another thing that is good to do when you have culture shock is make resolutions. Make things and schedule things that will get you excited. I am going to take three days to visit Uruguay. I am going to take another three days to see Iguazu Falls. I am trying to wrangle my internship hours so that I can go to Bolivia for a week. These are all things that I can look forward to and be excited about and plan, even if they don’t actually work out. While adjusting to Paraguay is a hard situation, I know that this is great experience for the Peace Corp, and for life. I refuse to let things get me down. I am going to make Paraguay fun, and meaningful, and even if there is no life here than I am going to inject it full of all of the life that I have inside of me, which is more than enough for any country to handle.

And that my friends, is how you conquer culture shock and homesickness.

Much love,

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