“You live in a foreign country?”
“You live in a foreign country? How cool! What’s it like? You are so lucky.”
Living in a different country is not as glamorous as the Instagram pictures make it out to be. You see the photos of the old market square, the castles, the bakeries, the houses scattered in the middle of fields filled with flowers. Don’t get me wrong, all of these places do exist here, but that isn’t the full picture.
What you don’t usually see is me looking very confused in the middle of the grocery store trying to mentally convert złoty to USD to figure out how much something costs, using google translate to read the labels on the items, and then going to the checkout, where more often than not the cashier won’t be able to speak English, all of this just to make a simple purchase that back in the States would have taken me no more than five minutes.
It is hard for me to describe what it feels like to stand in a crowd of people and not be able to have a conversation with anyone. Right now we are living in the city and I am not used to having cars drive by our front door day or night, or the never ending pounding and drilling from the construction down the street.
We don’t get to do fun outings everyday, in fact, most days we just stay at home. Here, we are the foreigners. It is not totally unexpected to have officials from border control to our house to ask us questions.
I miss home. Where I don’t have to use google translate to have a conversation. The land where I know the rules. Where if I need to go somewhere, I can just hop in my car and just go without even using a map. I find that it is the small things that I miss most – sitting in the living room looking out the window at a familiar view, driving on the back roads with the windows rolled down and the music turned up, making a gift for a friend to brighten up their day, or just chilling in my hammock in my room reading a good book.
Now when I hear someone speaking in English, even with a heavy accent, I get so excited!
I have learned so many things through my travels in the past two years, and I am sure I will learn many more in the months and years to come.
I know how much courage it takes trying to speak a new language that I am only just learning.
When I am back in the States and I hear someone speaking in broken English, I now want to reach out and encourage them and help them if I can. So many people have reached out and shown grace and thoughtfulness towards me even though I only know a few words in their language and I am the stranger in their land.
I have learned not to take for granted my knowledge of the culture of the States, because you don’t realize how much you know about the little things in everyday life that you only know from growing up there.
I never appreciated being able to call a friend without having to navigate a six hour time zone difference.
I had no idea how hard it would be saying goodbye to my loved ones, not knowing when I will see them again. I didn’t know how tired I would be after a 24 hour travel day of long lines, long flights, and long layovers, or the stress of going through border control.
Right now, I’m not really sure where I fit in. I only spent one month here in Poland back in January of this year, and a week and a half in July. I arrived back in Rzeszów the first week of September and, as of now, am still getting over jet lag and culture shock. I want to call this place my home, but for now, I don’t really know where my home is. Is it Virginia, the only place I’ve ever known? Or is it where my family is?
Now is the time for me to step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown.
Poland is a beautiful country, filled with beautiful people, and everyone I have met so far has been nothing but kind. I am sure that in time I will grow to love this land.