First Time Visiting "Home"
I want to start out by sharing a little bit of how I got here. I went on my first mission trip in 2015 with my church to Serbia. I enjoyed the people and the country, so I went back on a few more trips, and then took the steps necessary for me to be a full-time missionary in Serbia. All of the trips I had been on, I was only spending about 2 weeks in Serbia, and then coming home for a year before going on another trip. Even the school I was a part of in 2018 was a 6-month school, and then I came home for another 7 months. So, I was always home way longer than I was away.
Now that you can understand where I am coming from, I can move on. I moved to Serbia in March 2019 with airfare already purchased for Christmas 2019. I was here almost 9 months to the day when I flew back to Dallas. The traveling was all familiar, but the visit "home" was not. No matter how much I researched for my visit "home", I don’t think anything could have truly prepared me for it. I mean, this is where I grew up and where most of my friends and family live. What could be so difficult about it, right?
Well, it is true what “they” say about reverse culture shock. You go home, thinking everything will be the same as you left it and your relationships will pick back up where you left off. Sure, that is the case sometimes, but those are very rare and special friends. Hold on to them! I sometimes felt as if people didn’t know how to talk to me anymore, like I was an alien or something. The fact is, life went on without me in my hometown, and went on without them in Serbia.
We go to a foreign country to serve God and expect to see lives change. Well, lives do change, including our own lives. And maybe my life has changed the most out of anyone who I have encountered! Living a life overseas in a foreign culture where they speak a foreign language is far from easy. But it has become my life and my home. I have learned to adapt to things I never would have thought I would see myself doing, cooking being one of them ;) All joking aside, it is a shock to the system when you are uprooted from everything you knew, or thought you knew, and transplanted in another country.
So, when I went home for Christmas, it was the first time that I was just visiting Texas. I was there for two weeks, and had my calendar almost full by the time I landed in Dallas. I was really excited about seeing my friends and family, and couldn’t wait to hear what was going on in their lives! What I didn’t anticipate was that I would miss Serbia so much. There were two main factors in this:
1. In Serbia, it is a much more slow-paced life. If you ask someone how they are doing, they don’t say, “I am so busy, but I am good!” They tell you how they are really doing. They take the questions more literally, which I love! They don’t pack their calendars so full that they don’t have time for their friends and family. I literally had to make time in my schedule to intentionally spend with my family or else it may not have happened. I think we pride ourselves in how busy we can be. If someone is not busy, we think they either don’t have friends, they are lazy, or they are not striving to be the best they can be. But I think not being busy all of the time is something we should all strive for. We need rest. It is actually one of the 10 Commandments. Let that sink in…it is a command from God that we rest.
2. The second is that people in Serbia always make time to spend with their friends. We get coffee all the time here. But coffee here and coffee in America are two very different things. Here, it is a time to catch up and relax, maybe even walk around afterwards. If someone asks you to coffee, expect it to be a 1.5-3-hour coffee date. I had become accustomed to this, so when people were ready to go only 45 minutes after we sat down, I was a little bit in shock. I had forgotten how the cultures differed in that way, and I was left wanting more.
Although I have only named the difficulties I experienced in visiting home for the first time, please know that it was not all bad. Really, it was mostly good. I felt very encouraged and uplifted by my church family, along with my friends and relatives. I also really enjoyed eating Mexican food and barbecue! I got to eat most of the food that was on my “Things I Want to Eat in Texas” list at least once. I was able to bring back many things for ministry that would have been very expensive for me to get here. But my favorite part of visiting home was just spending time with my family and friends. It is such a blessing to still have so many in my life, and please know I love each and every one of you!