Monday, May 9, 2011


We moved to the Middle East 9 months ago in one week.

9 months ago, when we arrived, our company assigned us a car to use while we live here and go to language school.

We learned about the car 20 hours after we arrived.

Well, we learned it was manual, and not automatic.

Good thing neither Ian nor I knew how to drive manual!

Ian learned how to drive manual about 4 hours later.

We picked it up 36 hours after we arrived and drove 2 hours away to our new home.

I was way to busy settling in and learning about our new life to worry about learning how to drive manual. After all, I had Ian and it's not like I really had anywhere to go!

9 months passed and I still hadn't fully learned how to drive manual. It's not that I didn't want to, I just figured with the pregnancy and everything else I was dealing with, I did not need to add to the stress.

It was also my focal point for culture shock. You see, when a person moves into a new culture (or, I suppose, visits for an extended period of time,) they go through culture shock. The experts say you usually hit your culture shock wall at about 6 months.

I'm not sure if that's totally true for me.

I'm guessing I hit my culture shock wall 48 hours into our arrival in our new country, when we first walked in the door to our new home. It was mid August, the AC's hadn't been on in months (meaning temperatures in the 120's,) and a good 1/4 inch of sand had blown in by all the doors and windows leaving a dusting of sand on everything. I set to work, furiously cleaning our new home, unpacking our 8 crates, and trying to make sense of things. My culture shock focused in on the two most different things in my new life.

1.) Our new home had a Majilis, a front living room that is for guests. Guests typically won't come into any other part of your home and will stay up in the Majilis, removed from everything else. There is an attached bathroom and ours was furnished with an ancient, dust, smelly couch and chair. The first week or so I would be in there, because that is where I put all of our trunks, and I unpacked from that room, but after that....nothing. I wouldn't even go in there. It was different, we didn't have those in the States, and it was smelly (true story.)

2.) Manual/Stick Shift on our little car. In the States, my little Mazda Protege (beautiful little car, how I miss you!) was automatic and it was my first and only car. I had it for almost 6 years and was oh so comfortable in it. Here, we had a dusty old car (though in great condition, truthfully,) that was manual. It was jerky and scary and I just did not want to go there.

So, I didn't! For months on end I avoided the Majilis. For awhile, it was our only family room and sitting area, and Ian would be in there watching TV or playing a video game, and I flat out refused to join him. I would have rather sit in our bedroom, at my desk, by myself then be in that room. AND, in keeping with my avoidance theme, I didn't even try to learn how to drive manual.

I knew I could learn, and I knew that it wouldn't take that long, I just couldn't handle the stress of the situation right then. I was (and still am,) okay with the fact that I handled my culture shock like this.

I was keenly aware that I was using this as a focal point for my culture shock and I knew that eventually I would have to get over it. I just wasn't in a rush to make myself get over it.

With time, the Majilis became "less yucky," and the smell eventually went away. Our new family room, became our real living space and the Majilis became a rarely used room. Starting in January, when we switched our 2nd bedroom into the nursery, I had to start using the Majilis as our space to hang our laundry to dry. Now, I go in there, no problem. It's still not an aesthetically pleasing room and I probably wouldn't choose to hang out there, but I don't avoid it.

And now, as of today, I can say I officially know how to drive a stick shift! My sweet husband, Ian, took me out for my final (of 3,) lessons. Once Grace arrived, I realized how much more normal our lives would be if I could run to the grocery store with my baby, if Ian was busy, or go hang out at a friends house in order to maintain my sanity (I'm coming over Alison!)

Ian gave me my first lesson 3 months ago, but then I lost interest and we got busy. Also, I was hugely pregnant. Two weeks ago, on the day before Easter, we went out to a vacant area of town and practiced and today I drove all over town and even braved all of the traffic circles (we don't have traffic lights, just these massive traffic circles that are fast paced and intimidating.)

I'm not over culture shock, as they say it will come in waves for the rest of our time here, but I do believe that initial phase is over. Things that seemed overwhelming and daunting aren't so much any more. I'm content with how I handled everything, as I don't thing pushing myself to "just get over it," would have done anything but stress me out.

And now, to add a little "hardy-har-har," in your lives, I'll end by saying:

"I may not have automatically gotten through my culture shock, but with time I learned to shift gears and put the pedal to the metal."


I hope that made you laugh.

Or, at least chortle.

Or, at least raise an eyebrow.

*You should also know, that in just 6 weeks we'll be receiving a different car from our company.

And it's an automatic.*

Story of my life.


Tami said...

Oh girl- I am definitely with you on this one. We took a manual with us to Africa because we were told that was the only kind of car that they could work on there. Needless to say, I cannot drive a manual. I did try a few times while we were there but I eventually gave up. That, combined with the traffic, was just too much for me. I've decided we're getting an automatic when we get over there. Like you, I need to be able to drive to run errands- especially with a baby! That's awesome that you were able to learn though- you go girl! :)

Emily said...

I so did laugh at this! Glad you can drive a manual now and I agree with you-I think I could hit culture shock much sooner than 6 months!

Callie said...

Good for you! I still do't know how to drive a stick shift. Well, I know how academically speaking, but I can't actually DO it. Ha ha!

Sonya said...

Isn't that how it always goes! You learn something and then it changes!

publius said...

You're a stitch, Britt! I give you kudos for hanging in there and adapting so remarkably well! I would have had culture shock the minute I stepped off the plane! You've accomplished something I never have in learning to drive a manual shift car! I would have opted for a bicycle or a horse first ;)....even pregnant...that's the level of mental block I have about it. Right up there with math! Maybe if you redecorate your front you did the will be more appealing to use? Hey, any excuse to get to Ikea or Pottery Barn! Just a thought.

Natalie and Lee said...

That's usually how things go!

Just found your blog! Love reading all of your post... I aM supposed to be working! OOPS:)

Marsha C said...

I'm so proud of you and I'm laughing my head off.