Reflections on My First Year Living Overseas

Dec 9, 2019 12:08:47 PM Sarah Rymer

It’s official! We’ve reached the one-year mark. One year ago, my husband, our three young kids, and I – along with 13 suitcases of everything we owned – boarded a plane and moved to South Asia, where we’ve lived, worked, and learned for 12 months now. As I reflect upon taking this giant leap of faith this time last year, I find myself stuck in a world of “both–and.” 

Jess Blog 2I feel both the speed and slowness of time. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year, and yet it feels like an eternity since we arrived.

I feel both a sense of home and homesickness. I call this place home, and yet I’ve never felt such intense homesickness in my life.

I feel both successful and overwhelmed. I marvel at the amount of local language I’ve acquired, and yet I shudder at how much I have yet to learn.

I feel both accomplished and paralyzed. I'm amazed at the ways of life I’ve adapted to, and yet I feel paralyzed by the culture I have not even begun to understand.

I’m reminded of something a friend and fellow cross-cultural worker said to me, “Isn’t it amazing that God gives us grace to live and work in cultures so foreign to our own?” We’re living in a different world. And the cultural transition and acquisition doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process.

So I could choose to chide myself for being a dairy-loving American in a rice-for-every-meal culture. Or I could get discouraged by my innate affinity for order and timeliness in a country where start times are mere suggestions. Somehow, I thought these western tendencies would disappear so I could fully acclimate. But, they haven’t.

And I don’t know if they ever will. But that’s ok. Because in my neediness, I am humbled. In my inadequacies, I am forced to be teachable. And these are the two qualities I’m convinced are more necessary than any others to continue living and working abroad.

When I attempt to converse in my broken new language, the locals here don’t expect perfection. Instead, they are overjoyed at my effort. And when locals invite our family to their one-room homes where my small children often struggle to behave, they aren’t judging us for breaking cultural norms but thrilled that we would take the time to meet them where they are.

Serving and loving others so often starts with self-denial, doesn’t it? And I’m learning that it’s no different in another culture. It’s just that the self-denial feels more severe, more foreign, and more humiliating outside my norms. But here’s hoping so does the depth of the love and service we intend to show.

I’m more realistic now. I’m predicting that I’ll still choose bacon over daal even at the end of year 2 and maybe even year 20. But I’m also praying God will make me humble and that through my inadequacies his love will shine through, that I may be present, not perfect, as a learner with a servant’s heart – no matter where he puts me.

 

About the Author: Jessica has degrees in public relations and professional writing. She and her husband Scott are IDEAS Associates and moved to Asia in 2018 with their 3 children to provide healthcare for impoverished communities. Enjoy other blogs by Jessica, such as Moving Overseas with Children: Inevitable Losses and Surprising Gains.