Staying Put and Discovering Vulnerability
We have been in India for two weeks and we’re starting to feel at home. Though I’ve traveled extensively in the last fifteen years, I hadn’t lived in Asia for a few years. I must admit that first ten days or so in Bangalore wore us down, between the jet lag, getting a twenty-four hour flu, and learning new ways of doing everything.
I’ll even admit to a few of those moments where I asked “Why did we do this? Why didn’t I just to go a beach in Florida? Is this supposed to be a vacation?”
The worst part was getting angry with myself for feeling that way. After all, my company provides cross-cultural services, and being an adventure traveler has always been a part of my psyche. But we aren’t adventure traveling; we are living in an apartment trying to figure out daily routines. I’m also working here and adapting all of my professional norms. Plus, I reminded myself, so much of that dark feeling has to do with one’s physical condition. We were exhausted and that didn’t help.
Now that we sleep through the night and navigate easily through all the nooks and crannies of daily life in our apartment, I look back at those first few days and realize two important things.
First, we are not alone. A client of mine recently sent a blog posting from his first week living in India. The similarities were uncanny. He and his wife often pulled their hair out trying to understand the systems, the basics like how to turn on the lights and how to get clean drinking water! They had reveled in the excitement of train trips through Malaysia and backpacking through Thailand. Living in India, however, flooded them with a different spectrum of emotions.
The second thing I realized was those first few days of disorientation in a new home bring a very worthy feeling to the soul – vulnerability.
Even two weeks into our life here I am still fascinated by our kitchen. I get great joy from waking up in the morning and maneuvering around our stove, tea kettle, and sink. Why? Because just a few days ago I didn’t know how things worked and therefore how we were going to eat. Though this fear was irrational, it struck a primal chord of vulnerability.
I laugh now when I think of what stressed me out the most the first two days in our apartment. I am used to preparing our meals with a high quality chef’s knife back home. I’m not a big kitchen gadget person, but a good knife is invaluable.
How would I cut vegetables? How would I feed us? How would we ever feel at home here?
While I didn’t enjoy the feeling at the time, I understand its value. By being vulnerable and uncomfortable you get creative. My husband and I worked together as a team to figure out the apartment and get dinner on the table. You expand your comfort zone because you have to, and once you get through the challenges you feel more confident to face the next round.
Most of all you feel human. India has once again drawn my attention to bigger global challenges like access to clean water and demand for electricity. Through that mindfulness I feel more connected to the world because I cannot hide behind the bubble of convenience.
I’ve learned to be okay with feeling out of sorts in another country, not to judge the feeling but to learn from it.
And I went and bought a good cooking knife. Hey, it helps!
Until next time…