Monday, October 10, 2011

Student Post: Mariah Van Wyk on Culture Shock

We've been talking a lot lately about culture shock, and how, why and when it affects people. Mariah offered to share a post compiled from a series of emails to friends and family back home. Here's her experience, written about 2 weeks ago:
Mariah gets a mehndi (henna) 'tattoo'

Almost 2 weeks in India and I have been pushed to what I thought was my “limit” more times than I can count.

Every taste, touch, and smell is another reminder that I’m not dreaming, and that this is all really happening. Although I have only been here a short time, It feels like time (or my perception of it) is determined upon all the experiences that I have been a part of, and the encounters I have had while here. So... basically it feels like I have been gone almost twice as long.  

A part of me can’t help but constantly think of how fast time flies, and before I know it, I will be on a plane back to Colorado for Christmas... but I am also beginning to see how easy it is to become attached to the people and culture here! I feel like I am starting to really enjoy it here, now that things are becoming more and more familiar each day... and I have gotten over my first wave of culture shock.  

To summarize... the first of my days here were very exciting, everything was so new and different. I was finally getting the adventure I had always wanted; and me and my enthusiasm wanted to try and experience it all. Clearly, there’s only so much that a person can absorb at one time, and sure enough... after a few days, the weight of my surroundings began to set in. The best way I can describe it is that it’s almost as if I had “traveler’s/ or tourist- tinted-glasses” on when I came here, and when I finally began to settle, the glasses came off and I was overcome with an Indian wave of culture shock. I became aware to so many things that I either hadn’t noticed before, or that I had seen, and chosen to ignore...or maybe I had seen these things before but they were just now affecting me differently? 

Either way, I couldn’t believe everything I had missed. I could go into so much more detail, but briefly some of the hardest things that I have dealt with so far have been: the pollution and smog, the heat and humidity; food-poisoning; an eardrum which still hasn't adjusted from one of my flights into India; the unconcealed staring from almost everyone, everywhere we go; the cultural difference of treatment between men and women; and the surprisingly blatant poverty found in places and times you may expect to see it, and often when you least expect it.

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