Tuesday 10 April 2012

Reverse culture shock: coming home - a word of warning

Having come home from Kenya yesterday, and spent a pretty lazy day doing not much except unpacking, telling the stories, watching the rain, and enjoying being with the family again, today I had to face up to the fact that some shopping needed to be done.
I was awake early, so decided to go and 'do Tesco' whilst it was still quiet, but still I found the whole experience very hard, despite the fact that I am the person who normally does the shopping in our house. The massive amount of choices for each type of food was just overwhelming and I kept thinkiing of those children in Kibera who have no choices about what to eat. For them, any food is a luxury, and they certainly wouldn't consider being picky about whether to have Kelloggs Cornflakes or Tesco own-brand etc.

I tell that story as an example of the reverse culture-shock we will probably all go through at some point in the next few days, weeks and months. There might be times when you feel guilty about all that you have, or you might get wound up by people bemoaning what they don't have, or quibbling over something that you now consider to be petty and trivial. People might not want to hear as many stories of the trip as you want to tell, and others might just 'not get it'.

The culture shock can be just as marked coming back home as it is going overseas; and sometimes it is harder. When we go to the other place, we have all the excitement and newness to carry us through, but coming home can feel like a bit of an anti-climax once we have got past the joys of being reunited with loved ones.

My advice to you, when you feel a bit tearful, or guilty, or even just confused by the complexity of feelings, is to acknowledge those feelings as OK. Get together with others that have done the trip - go round and have a chat, or pick up the phone - and talk it through with someone who 'gets it'. And then think how you can use those feelings, and all that you have been through in the past week, for positive change.

Spurgeons need us more now we are home even than when we were there. Yes we did a great job last week, and we gave lots of children a great time, but for their ongoing survival they need more than just a sports week. The real legacy of the trip is not just in the memories we have created for the Spurgeons kids, but it is in how we tell the stories and inspire others to get involved. Can we get some children sponsored? Can we raise funds for them to do some rebuilding of the really worn out bits of the school? Don't let the trip stop now - let's take it forward and make the most of being here with lots of opportunities to be ambassadors for Spurgeons Academy.

Enjoy being home!


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