Saturday, April 25, 2009

6 months

Lately I've been thinking about our life here in America. We've been back for exactly 6 months today. I wasn't paying attention to the date. I hadn't been counting down or up or back. I knew it had been about 6 months, but I wasn't really keeping track. Then tonight Anna Grace came into my bedroom. I could tell she had been crying. She told me that today was exactly 6 months since we arrived. And she burst into tears again. She wants to go back to Turkey. She and Will both want to go back. Erica and Jacob seem to be having an easier time of it, but even they've wanted to go back at times. I've watched these kids navigate the roadways of life in America these past 6 months. There have been some really hard days. We've had to deal with some reverse culture shock in a big way. I have almost blogged about some of those things in the past, but I didn't want people to think I was being judgmental, racist, prejudiced, or insensitive. I've decided to put a couple of those thing down tonight, because for some reason they are weighing heavily on my mind.

The first week of school for Erica was eye-opening for us all. Erica came home from school talking about a girl in her class who was pregnant. That didn't surprise or shock me. I fully expected there to be a pregnant girl or two in her school. After telling me about the pregnant girl Erica mentioned another girl in her class who has a 1 year old boy. I asked Erica what she did with her son while she was in school. She told me that he went to the daycare at the school. I was shocked. On one hand I was happy that this girl could continue her education without having to worry about who was taking care of her baby. On the other hand I wondered how many kids at her school had kids. Evidently enough that there was a need for an in-house daycare. It was hard to wrap my mind around that. It still is.

We've also had to deal with the way our kids talk about people of a different race. We came from Turkey. We called those around us Turks. They were Turks. There weren't Chinese Turks and French Turks and Georgian Turks. If you were Chinese you weren't Turkish. If you were Greek you weren't Turkish. Even the Kurds who lived in the East, who had been born and raised in Turkey weren't Turks. They were Kurds. It is what we were used to. At the international school our kids attended there were kids from all over the world. Iraqis, Italians, Greeks, Nigerians, Brazilians, Iranians, Egyptians, and so many others. Those nationalities were celebrated at their school. Here in the states our kids find themselves wanting to call people by the nationality of their ancestors. In Houston there are many people of Mexican descent, but they are not Mexicans. They are Americans. The kids know that...now.

I hope you hear the tone in which this was written. It's observing, thinking, and understanding. It is without fear. It's been 6 months already. I can't believe it.


Kristen said...

I can't believe you've already been in the States 6 months either! But then again, I can't believe I've been overseas for almost a year. Sorry I've been such a lax commenter...once I started using google reader I hardly visit anyone's actual blog anymore. I'm still keeping up with you though!

Sara Campbell said...

We miss you.

Mamadallama said...

It's funny how 'sensitivity' to issues such as race actually leads to more insensitivity. Disturbing, frustrating and leaves no one happy. I would think groups would be proud of their heritage, but the good ol' US seems to want to homogenize everyone in a effort to be politically correct.

On the other hand, I'll bet in another 6 months, things will be going very smoothly and AG's tears will be a thing of the past. It always seems to take a year to acclimate to a new situation. Hopefully, that will hold true this time.

Becky Mochaface said...

It's rough, there's no question. I think your kids are a step ahead of most here in the States just for having spent so much time living in another country. The exposure to different cultures helps broaden us and make us more understanding. I hope they start having an easier time soon.

Andrea's Sweet Life said...

I was 13, nearly 14, when we moved back to the states from Germany and it was VERY HARD. I cried rivers and rivers of tears, and begged my parents to go back.

The attitudes of the kids here were hard for me comprehend, and I can't say I ever really got completely used to it.

I was considered "different" - more so than people of other nationalities, even, because I was raised in a different (albeit blended) culture. I FELT different, too. Like I didn't fit in.

But I did adjust. I got fairly used to things, and after about a year I felt more at home here in the states. My plan was always to return to my "real home" in Germany and raise a family there, but you know... life gets in the way!

I still miss it, and I so want to take my children there for an extended stay when they are a bit older. I want them to soak up some of the different culture, to see that there is more than one way of life. To open their eyes in a way they can't really be opened here in the states, not entirely, anyway.

Give them huge hugs and tell them it WILL get better. Just as they adjusted to life in Turkey, they'll adjust to life here.

jana said...

I can imagine how confusing that is for your children, the norms they came from in turkey to here. I think culture differences and social norms can be cruel, kids can be cruel, but a supportive family to spring from is key. The in-school daycare thing, probably a sad reality. My babes are still small, but I can imagine we'll be crossing this bridge. The main reason I am commenting is to support your courage to be who you are and share what you need to; this is YOUR blog :) I struggle with being open on topcis that might be controversial so cheers to you.

Unknown said...

I'm glad you shared this. There are so many people that have never been out of the US, much less lived abroad, that it's good (I think) to hear how things of race and nationality are handled elsewhere. There is no shame in describing people in the way you described-there is a decided difference between description and prejudice. There is obviously none of that in your family.

Sorry the kids are having such a hard time...hope it gets better soon!

Mary Beth said...

It can be difficult to settle into a new culture, especially since we do tend to look at things differently here. I'm sorry the kids are having a rough time of it. Hoping it will get better soon.

Lynn @ Walking With Scissors said...

I'm going to go ahead and echo the comments of everyone else here. Culture shock is called that for a reason, I guess - it's a shock!

I'm Canadian and my best friend moved to the states when she was 20. She had a huge culture shock, which was a surprise. The city she moved to is very different from what we know in Canada. When she first got there, if someone dropped something, she'd go to help pick it up. After being cursed out and given dirty looks, she realized that helpfulness isn't looked at the same way there. Also, her friends used to look at her like she was crazy when she took her shoes off in the house. I don't think I'll ever understand the concept behind wearing shoes in the house...

I hope your kids acclimate soon - it's always tough to move, especially such a big distance.

Off to go pick my jaw up off the floor over the in-school daycare thing...

Amy said...

Having moved around my whole childhood, it's hard no matter where you're moving to or from, and I'm sure it's magnified that much more when it's such a huge culture shock. Give them some more time & they'll get used to it, although I know it's hard for everyone.

As far as the teen mother thing...wow, that's crazy. My daughter's only 3, but I can only imagine how much worse it will be by the time she's a teen. No words to help on that one, I'm afraid.

Best of luck on the adjustment - it will get better, I promise!

Amazing Greis said...

It was great talking to you this afternoon, can't wait to meet you as we March for Maddie tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

I was shocked the first time I heard that high schools now have day cares for the students. I know pregnancy at the H.S. age is more common these days, but a day care, really?!?!?!? It's crazy how much the U.S. has changed in the past 5, 10, 20 years.

See you tomorrow.

becky marshall said...

Just in the way of FYI...the teachers get to use the day cares at the district high schools and we have a whole curriculum in early childhood, as well. So the students taking those classes are learning education by working in the "lab school" as well as hitting the books. A win-win, in a lot of ways.

Natalie said...

becky - i knew they used to do something like that. i remember when i was in high school i took a class on early childhood development and curriculum. we had kids come in three days a week for a mother's day out kind of program. i loved it! my favorite class! i think what surprised me was that students at the school used it and that it was a full time program now. again, i'm glad it's available, but surprised at the same time i guess.

Jason, as himself said...

Wow. What an interesting thing to consider. Your kids are going to be such well-rounded adults because of these experiences.

I just finished The Poisonwood Bible, set mainly in Africa, and it discusses this reverse culture shock.

C.J. Koster said...

I can totally sympathize. 100%.

Anonymous said...

It's tough to adjust to any new culture, even one that is yours by birthright.
Just today myolder son and I were tlaking about how around here, if our grandparents weren't raised here, you are an outsider. It doesn't matter that my kids were born here, they will never be locals because their parents are not.

LiteralDan said...

It'd be nice if there was some kind of cultural adjustment center for people coming into a country, to avoid pain and frustration like this.

I'm sure it's small consolation for them, but it will get better over time.

Natalie said...

kristen - no worries. i read blogs in a reader as well. makes it much quicker, but harder to comment. a year...really? wow!

sara - we miss you guys too.

mamadallama - i know. it is interesting to see it all after being away from it for so long. and i'm sure the next 6 months will be easier.

andrea - i can imagine how you felt! my kids are different now. but it is a good kind of different i think. i hope you get to germany someday. a visit there might make you realize how much you love america. when we went back to turkey after being in the states for 7 months i felt it big time!

jana - it has been an interesting journey for sure. thanks for the encouragement. i hate controversy. a lot!

headless mom - thanks for being faithful to read and comment here! and thanks for the encouragement.

mary beth - thanks.

lynn - it has been a shock. i expected some of it, because we've dealt with it before. i just didn't know where or how it would hit us. america is a different place for sure. but i do love it here.

amy - thanks for the encouragement. i think the daycare thing is a great idea, but it was just so surprising.

amazing greis - thanks for the call! see you tomorrow!

jason - i read the poisonwood bible several years ago. i had forgotten that. everyone talked about reverse culture shock and i had experienced some of it before. i just was surprised at what we felt this time.

cj - i know you can.

citizen - i know what you mean.

jfoodyum said...

I have been observing as well after 2 years. Diversity is celebrated in int'l schools whereas here melting in and being the same is more desired. My daughter rarely mentions her past travels for fear of being different or appearing as a snob. My son wants to move back ASAP.

maris said...

I've just read your post and it almost made me cry... I am sorry that Anna Grace and Will are taking it hard, give them a big hug from me, please.. As for you, my lady, you are a wonderful mother and a very strong woman, I am sure you'll support them through this time. Meanwhile, my prayers are with you..


HeyJoe said...

It's interesting how, as Americans, we tend not to want to point out or reference someone's nationality in conversation, like we’re somehow criticizing them.

I notice my folks will, when talking about someone, happen to mention that he/she is German, Black, Italian, etc. and I wonder "why is it necessary to classify the person?" Maybe it’s a generational thing, and yet in some ways it's a shame that we've homogenized ourselves so much.

Good post, by the way.

Sra said...

I had a bit of reverse culture shock coming back from study abroad trips in Germany, and I was only there for one month each time I went! It may take a year or two to settle in for you guys.

In Utah we have a fairly large Bosnian population since we took a lot of refugees from the war in Bosnia in the 90's. One of my best friends is a Bosnian. She is also now an American citizen, but that cultural heritage of hers remains, and I still call her a Bosnian. I don't think that's racist in the least.

I think in America we have done ourselves a great disservice with the PC-movement. You can't fix underlying prejudice by slapping a bandage in the form of linguistic changes on it.

Andrea said...

I expected that you would experience some culture shock. In a little over a year, we will be in your boat. Maybe you can offer some ideas at that point?!? :)

I hope that things will get better. I think you and your family are truly lucky to experience different cultures. We all need to learn to "think outside the box".

Natalie said...

jfoodyum - i know you have. it's interesting for sure how different kids handle the same situations!

derya - thanks so much! i read the comments to them, and i think it helped to hear so many people other than me say it will get better! thanks!

heyjoe - i know. i think living outside of that homogenized culture was more eye-opening that i ever realized! thanks!

sra - i think you're right. it is going to take some time. and some things will always be different even if they eventually get used to the way they are done here. i don't think it's racist at all. heritage and culture should be celebrated. i think we have a hard time with that!

andrea - maybe! i knew to expect it some, but i was surprised at how much it hit the kids! thanks!