The longest I’ve been out of the country (“the country” being the US) before this point has been three weeks. I was maybe nine-years-old and my mom, my sister Kaia, who is two years older than me, and myself took an adventure by plane, bus, foot, and cramped taxi to Apoxtla, Mexico, to spend almost a month with my dear aunt, uncle and cousins who were living there. Before we left, my mom talked about “culture shock,” whatever that meant. I knew a “shock” could be on your bike, or on your face, but I had no idea what the first word meant, so I didn’t really worry about it. Kaia was sick for a week when we were there, so I figured that’s what culture shock was.
Now, I have been in Lithuania for three weeks, which is definitely “out of the country,” and have been in Klaipeda, at LCC for two weeks. One of these days is the day that marks my record for the longest I’ve been out of the country. But there are different elements that, even though it has been the same amount of time, have made these three weeks drastically different from my other out-of-country experiences.
Before, I had the expectation of leaving shortly. I lived out of a suitcase, and I lived with Americans – family or friends – and I had someone who spoke English as well as the language of the country we’re in with me at all times. This trip, I have had the idea of “culture shock” jammed into my skull so mercilessly, that I’m still not sure what it means. But I’m definitely learning about culture – theirs, mine and ours – by every conversation, every transaction, and every glance. And it is shocking.