I feel like we’re going to be in big trouble 15 or 18 or however many months from now when we touch back down on U.S. soil. (To clarify, we’re not moving back to the U.S. We’ll just be back for a visit every two years or so. A sweet friend was confused by the first sentence of this post.) Because we went to the movies today. And holy culture shock.

There’s a new mall here, a Japanese mall. The first time I went (today was my third time), I felt very flummoxed and whatchamajiggied. “Where am I?” I felt like I was back in Japan actually, a place I haven’t been in 18 years.

We met friends to eat in the food court, which is American-ish but substitute platters of crickets and spiders for Auntie Anne’s and Sbarros. We split an order of Indian curry w/naan ($2.50), some Khmer fried noodles with vegetables ($2.00 x 2 = $4.00), sugarcane juice ($.50), mini-sushi ($1.20), kettle corn ($1.00), and four mini-ice cream pops (25 cents each, 3 coffee & 1 durian). (Oh, I want to like durian. I’m going to keep working on it.)

$10.20. Not bad. Except we were still hungry.

After lunch, we window-shopped. The Japanese $1.90 store is always fun (yes, everything is $1.90). And the bookstore (oh, bookstores!). I always get out my phone and text myself a bunch of book titles and then look for them on the Cbus Library digital downloads site.

Then we headed up to the top floor of the mall.

And two of the five of us about had a breakdown.

The top floor (which I’d never been on) is one big huge arcade, a movie theater, a Dairy Queen, a Burger King (!!) and some other Western restaurants. I looked around wide-eyed, trying to hold my jaw in place. I glanced at the girls. They looked so confused.

“Oh, this is so weird…” one of them said. “I don’t like this!” another one cried. It was like we’d landed in America and slept through the plane ride.

We’d been wanting to see Insurgent, so we decided we’d do it today. Our friends had been at the mall longer than we had and were ready for a nap, so they headed home. We bought our tickets ($4 instead of $3, since it’s a holiday–still a good deal), then we went to Burger King and shared large fries and a large onion rings (more America! so delicious!).

We polished off the food in no time flat and headed to the movie. Oh, it was so weird to walk through the theater. Carpet! So squishy and soft. And popcorn! Real popcorn! We bought two boxes ($2 each). We scarfed it down before the previews even started. (I’m afraid to let anyone watch us eat the first few days we’re back in America.) (For our visit.)

The seats were comfy and they rocked (literally, I’m not trying to be cool). There was some very loud music playing while we waited. All of the bad words I know in one little song.

And then the movie (awesome). The girls’ feet were freezing in the A/C.

Then it was over. And none of us knew where we were. It was the strangest feeling. We walked out, bright lights, no white people. We filed out of the theater and back into the main part of the mall.

It was a very inside-squeezy, super-uncomfortable feeling that better writers than me might be able to describe, but I got nothin’.

“It feels like we’re in a mall in Ohio,” Ava said, “except it’s Asian Day.”


We went down three escalators, through the food court, and outside. From A/C to 97 degrees in one single blast. It felt good. That was weird.

Hailed a tuk-tuk. He wanted $3. We offered $2.50. Minutes later we were home.

My head was pounding. Still is. Ibuprofen and time to make dinner.

Back to life, back to reality.

“I feel like I’m in a funk,” Nina said.

“That’s because you just got back from America,” Ava said. “You have jet lag.”

It feels good to be home.

6 thoughts on “lost

  1. Mary

    I read this linked article yesterday and found it so interesting. I know it applied to my daughter’s school exchange program in Argentina last summer (4 weeks of immersion but as a local living there rather than a tourist) because I sensed all of her disorientation when she returned – that took days and weeks to resolve. So reading this last night was fascinating – to see it defined as something real and universally experienced. Reading your post was like reading an example from the article. It sounds like too much juxtoposition to wrap your minds and hearts around…. Rightfully so. http://www.wsj.com/articles/BL-272B-680

  2. kim

    Ava’s just nailin’ it! Such wisdom and understanding coming out of her (and we’re only getting a snippet here.) Out of the mouths of our babes…”Asian Day”–I love it!

  3. Lari

    It’s major reverse culture shock! I was always surprised when I heard English…oh wait! everyone here speaks it…. 😉 It’ll be another adjustment, but it won’t take too long to readjust.

  4. Joyce

    I remember our first few trips back to the US where upon landing we’d head straight for the Mexican restaurant, and the next night a perfectly cooked steak-two things missing in our UK repetoire. But after a while that feeling subsided. Now we’re living back in the states and I try to find my PG tips and hubs and I hunt for places to get authentic curries. Life feels upside down sometimes : )

  5. Sarah Farish

    I remember my first trip to Honduras. There was a mall, several familiar restaurants, and an Applebee’s. Now, there’s even a Wal-mart. One minute you’re in downtown and it almost looks like America. Then, you drive two miles and remember where you are. And in Honduras, the cost of living is no cheaper than America. You want to see a movie? $7-$10. You want Diet Coke in Wal-mart? $1.50 for a 2-liter. I love a restaurant in Honduras called La Creperia. It’s about $10-$15 for me to eat there, depending on what I choose. Other missionaries go there and what appear to be wealthy Hondurans. If you see my pictures from there, you’d think I was in downtown Columbus at a party – twinkling lights, fruity (nonalcoholic) drinks, loud laughter, well-dressed waiters, prompt service, nice dishes, and so on. It’s like…here’s where the rich and the mission teams go – and sometimes even take the “poor” – and here’s where you, native, stay: in the desolate hills and crammed cities with a 16 by 16 house. No indoor plumbing. No running water. And I can’t reconcile it all. When the team’s “out for the evening,” I always have fun and enjoy the people, but feel a bit like…yeah, our team just paid $20 times $10 to eat here…that’s a few months (or more) salary for the family living in the house I can see in the distant hills. Friend, what do we do with this? I’ve always wondered about this odd juxtaposition…even in America where I stand near Trump Tower in New York City as a homeless man saunters by. It’s so uncomfortable…so “not right” but ….????

    Keep sharing. Keep focusing our eyes on Him, not losing sight of our purpose, our Savior. LOVE YOU!

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