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Reverse culture shock

a travel blog by carseat tourist

moving back to USA after living in China for 3 years
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Reverse culture shock

Lummi Island, United States

So...New Years Eve we flew back to America. We like to do everything the most stressful way possible, so we met the social worker in Beijing to do our 6 month post placement thing. Lets see, the thought of social workers probably makes most folks cringe just sitting in their nice comfy homes. Imagine meeting the social worker (setting yourself out there to be judged on your parenting skills) mid-international move. We looked at it like, well, this is us, we're real. Of course Little Guy always likes to keep it real and spent most of that meeting under the table at Starbucks. By the way, that was only the 2cd time in my three years in China that I went to Starbucks. The first time was only because we went to be fingerprinted (for the adoption, 'cause they lost the first set) at the old US Embassey in Beijing and we were 15 minutes early and the Chinese guard said, "Go away, your appointment is in 15minutes. We have something more important to do right now". We tried to wait outside the Embassey office and the guard repeated himself, so we went down to Starbucks.
So, my only big mess-up was that we couldn't find the enlargements of the 6 pictures of Little Guy in our 8 carry on pieces. I was fairly freaking out because that meant all the enlargements that I made were lost and I didn't have time to get all the photo's off the school computer to my computer so I was really becoming bummed thinking of those lost photos. But really, we had a plane to catch- so we just answered questions honestly and tried to keep Princess and Little Guy from having a major fit since he spilled her OJ.
Leaving China with that who-knows-if it-was-real passport issued from those-who-did-not- register Little Guy prior to his adoption was quite a tense moment. There were some phone calls being made with the immigration officers and we were really sweating it, but finally they let us pass. We jumped on the airport golf cart to the gate (only 20RMB for the family of 4) and made it. Had the heighten security for flights to the USA (pat down, complete bags recheck) not been delaying our flight we would have missed it. On board we weren't seated together...AUGH...even worse, we have been globe trotting for 3 years, 3 years, and only the 1st flight to China lacked the little tvs on the seatback, what do you know, the final flight was missing them too. We didn't plan for that and had packed about nothing for the kids to do on the plane. Luckily they just slept and ate and slept and were angels!!!!
We arrive in San Francisco and walk to immigration and Little Guy sees the flag and when we have our turn he is just going nuts. He was just overjoyed. He was signing applause and screaming happiness noises. How he could know what was happening to him was beyond us, but he was glad to be an American. Although the immgration officer said he wasn't yet an American...paperwork to come.
The check in people were wonderful to us, we shoved our coats in our checked luggage before we re-checked it, basically added another 5 pounds, thus over the 50 pound limit. The lady was so nice and said, "well you are international so if they took this over there than so will I."
I was so in culture shock! Was this the new America, everyone nice and friendly? Nope, we walked on over to security and got the taste of what's up now. I was wearing cowboy boots (heaviest pair of shoes, & I had brought them from USA the 1st year & I knew it would be a long time before I'd be able to get another pair). We went thru the family line and tried to tell them Little Guy was deaf. That fell on deaf ears. So my ankles had swollen on the 16 hours of travel and my kids were freaking out. Princess's doll ( a my Twinn doll, American product) had to go thru some wipe down special scrutiny thing and she was upset. Really who treats a treasured doll like a a regular piece of baggage. What kind of example does that give the kid? Never fear, due to my slow removal of the boots I then got the same wipe down as the doll. By now Little Guy is worked up, and they are telling me to "Stay back m'aam", even though they sent both the kids thru before us and decided to send me to the boothe where they told me we could do this somewhere "more private" if I wished- while my kids are freaking out. The husband had worn Doc Martins (same reason as the cowboy boots) and was not selected for "the boothe" but had a rough time trying to deal with the kids, 8 pieces of carry-ons and the half-undressed doll with his shoelaces untied. I thought it was an interesting take on America that cowboy boots are more kick-ass threats than Docs.

On to the next flight where none of us were scheduled to sit together. I tried to explain to the agent that our son was deaf and that wouldn't work. "Ma'am, the fight is overbooked and that family (mom, dad, and infant) was here first. " In the end, they seated us-2 in the nice seats (not first class) and 2 in the squished 3 people at the back of the plane seats. Number 3 seat didn't appreciate sitting near us.
We arrive in Seattle, our bags arrive in Seattle, yeah! Teenager was going to fly in from her dad's at 11pm. That made it impossible to get to the island (last ferry at midnight). We decided to stay at the Embassy Suites. It was quite shocking that all other hotels wanted us to book 2 rooms, because we have 3 kids. What? Is there some kind of family planning conspiracy with the hotel industry? Anyway the Embassey Suites have secure our future business by having the suite and not charging for the third kid. Plus they had bacon for the free breakfast. When I was at the hospital with Little Guy and thinking OMG, I can't take it anymore, I told myself, hang on bacon is in 7 days. From the moment we booked that hotel room in the beginning of Dec, I was drooling over the thought of bacon. Anyway, if you stay at the Embassy Suites, chances are the other guests are not staying there because of the 3 kid conspiracy, there are they because they are rich. So we get onto the shuttle at the airport (with our 8 checked, 8 carried on bags) with these other guests. Golf tournament people. I load the kids and the husband and the driver load the bags. These people start talking about how they don't want to wait for us, it is just so crazy that they have to wait for these bags to be loaded, and then there kids start up. Little Guy is deaf, he grunts sometimes, really he is pretty quiet, but he is not to cordinated. So their kid starts making fun of him. And it goes on and on. And the parents do nothing to curb it, in fact they continue to rant about our luggage and say there "must be something wrong with them". I just wanted to cry.
The whole time I was in China, we almost always got stares and if people talked to us we immediately said he's deaf, so they wouldn't think we kidnapped him. I thought when we got to America, I would hardly say anything about his disability, I thought people weren't so nosey here. I just tried to pretend I was deaf and didn't say anything to the people. The ride (5 minutes tops) included a further rant about the people going to a tournament near a military base and the kid saying he thought he should go help those poor miltary kids and teach them a free golf class. Culture shock...secretly I thought those military kids would likely put Mr. Junior Golf Whatever in his place.
So back at the hotel, different people are pushing those luggage carts around and said, "excuse me" to Little Guy. I had to grab him to keep him from being run over and say,"Sorry, he's deaf."
And I realized that I would be saying, "he's deaf" just as often here because people don't understand why he doesn't respond. I felt sad.
But the Embassy Suites was a really nice hotel...free snacks from 4-6pm. Chips and salsa. We hadn't had all you can eat salsa in ages so we were pigging out. Little Guy usually hates red food, but he saw HOW MUCH WE WERE ENJOYING the salsa, so on his own he tried some. He hated it. He also had his first taste of root beer. Also hated it.
The had a hot water pool. At the social worker meeting, she had asked if he was a risk taker. Interesting question for a 5 year old. At a job interview, I expect that question for me, but really never thought about in terms of my kids. Let see, if I give them some money are they going to put it in a money market or the stock market....anyway she meant if there is something he wants to do will he think about or do it. For Christmas (practically skipped that holiday due to the financial burden of the cash upfront eye surgery) we had 2 silk capes made for the kids. He put his on and raised his little arm and wanted to fly. He got outside, climbed to the tallest drift and jumped. Landed face first, lay there and raised that little arm still trying to get his cape's powers to work. He just couldn't figure out why he couldn't fly. We have to be very careful when we let him wear the cape because he will jump off a flight of stairs if he has the chance. So yeah, he's a risk taker. We get to the pool, full speed he jumps in. He can't swim, we'd never taken him before. He flounders, over and over again he tries to get away from us to swim by himself and drinks buckets of water. He just doesn't give up. Some kids started saying "what is this, the special needs pool?" and making fun of him. I was just flabbergasted. In China, people would gawk at us, but they gawked before we adopted him. If they said something about his deafness, it was in Chinese. For some reason that didn't hurt as much. Not my native language, maybe my translation is off, plus it's not my culture.
I had worked in special ed for years. Always when we went out with the classes, people were pretty nice. Now it was a huge shock to see people act this way.
Teenagers plane came in near midnight, so I took the shuttle back to the airport. New Years Eve and I was the only person on the van. The driver was so nice, he was from Thailand. He said he was new at the job but had been here for years. I asked what made him switch jobs. He said he other hotel closed. He had been unemployed for 7 months. He said the job section of the Sunday Seattle newspaper used to be 20 pages, now it is 3. He said it used to be nobody wanted the midnight shift of shuttle driver, he said 15 or 50 (accent not clear) had applied for this job. He said he only got the job because he had worked in hotels for 9 years. OMG! I was thinking that wow, it is going to be tough to get a job. I asked if he thought he Olympics were going to create jobs in the area. He said he had thought so too, but had seen any signs of it.
Teenager was so happy to be back with the family!! Midnight passed at the shuttle waiting area with a bunch of friendly people.
We woke up to our big breakfast. The bacon, I was so excited. They served it but gave like 5-8 slices. But because my stomach had shrunk and I'm not used to eating such greasiness, I could only eat 3 slices. Even my husband couldn't finish all his. I felt so sad when I couldn't clean my plate. They just throw away the food here. In China alot of food is wasted when people go out to eat too, but the places give put it out on the street and the donkeys come by and eat it.
Our ride home was quite interesting...the English signs everywhere are so mind boggling. The little cars move along the road so orderly. We let some fellow islanders use our car while we are away and they pick us up from the airport. I got in the car and noticed the check engine light was on. On the final 5 mile stretch, they inform me that my car needs a new catalytic converter. By this time, I'm so exhausted and culture shocked, that it just resulted in an uncomfortable silence.
Welcome home...

permalink written by  carseat tourist on February 6, 2010 from Lummi Island, United States
from the travel blog: Reverse culture shock
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Airlift for the non-English Speaker

Lummi Island, United States

Reverse culture shock bites.
The entire time you were away you imagined your native country as being the perfect place to be when any problems arose. "Oh, if I was in America this would be handled like this.." or "I never have this problem in America"
So you move back and you have the ugly truth that problems in America are not as easily dealt with as you thought.
For example, Little Guy, he is still deaf in America. That was no shocker for me, but I got to pay $230 to confirm that for all the concerned professionals so that he could get services. Amazing the results in America were the same as China, he really can't hear. On a sidenote I'd always heard that when a blind person who has never seen gets their vision restored, they go crazy, it's just so overwhelming. I'd say maybe the same thing goes for deaf folks. I took Little Guy in for the test and he sat there with the headphones. I could see him and the computer screen, 3 times on one ear he gave the thumbs up sign that corresponded to the computer screen and then he signed waiting, waiting and they switched to the other ear and nothing but he still was signing waiting and his little face was all screwed up and confused. He came out of the sound booth and was crazy. Like really clinically crazy. The rest of the day, headbanging, slamming himself into the pavement, violent, uncontrolably nuts. He threw legos at the doctor. It was horrible. The sound booth lady reported to me that he registered no brain waves and didn't hear a thing. Ok, he went into the booth sane and deaf, he came out crazy. I'm thinking that his brain waves certainly freaked in there.
Anyway, I'll spare the story of the fight with the school system and the 35 school days wait to get him on the short bus to the special needs preschool. He needs to be in a deaf program, but they stuck him with a class of special needs folks. Nothing against his classmates, I used to work in special ed.
I say that phrase alot here, "I used to work..." Thats because I'm still unemployed. A zillion resumes and I have only had 2 interviews at Ross and McDonads. Both of them went the same way, "So your last retail/fast food experience was in the '80's..." And so I swallow my old age humble pie and perk up about how much fun it used to be to work at Dairy Queen/Thom McAn, meanwhile thinking OMG I can't believe I'm begging to work at McDonalds. So now I find myself saying if I was in China I could get a job so quick...
Anyway, life is quick. And I am a good cook, despite my failure at gaining employment at McD's. To my honor, I have won 3rd place at the Lummi Island Chili Cookoff in 2006, a blue ribbon for beer biscuits I made in 6th grade at the Harper County Fair in Harper, Kansas (I lived in the Bible Belt and my mom was a reformed hippie and used to send me out to collect recycling cans and one day I found a full can of beer, to torture me and poke fun at the fair and the snooty little FHA chics my mom convinced me to make beer biscuits and enter them in the fair. It was a real serious thing, the judges interviewed you about your recipe and I had to tell them where I got the beer, but I won the coveted
blue ribbon anyway). And I can boil a mean pot of frozen dumplings (or pot stickers as they are called on the bag). My dumplings are soooooo good that Little Guy (in his own world of culture shock) saw them on the table and took a step off into thin air from the 2cd highest step of our spriral staircase. Since he wasn't wearing his super hero cape he landed with a thunk of the likes I've never heard. Chris's back was turned for the split second it happened. Little Guy lay on the floor and wanted up. We tried to get him to stay down, but he wanted to be held and the lighting is dim over there. So Chris held him in his lap and his eyes rolled back into his head when he checked them.
So I called 911, I explained the fall and said I wanted the paramedics to meet us at the ferry. The operator said, "Ma'am, do not leave the residence." Like it was a scene of the crime or something. So we waited. Actually, it was like 12 minutes. I'm like, are they coming? Dang, I could have made the ferry. Little Guy wanted to go to sleep but we kept him up. We put on his coat and shoes for the journey. My neighbor (the one gave us the ride from the airport) is driving the ambulance when it pulls up. I open the door and the first words I hear (maybe some other stuff was said) were, "Airlift is on its way."
I'm totally stunned. Living on the island, my biggest fear is the helicopter. It is freakin' expensive. The ferry is $10 for a car and the helicopter is like 400 times that or more. I have always said that I better be about dead before I'm out on that because if I get the bill I'll have a heartattach. And that was when I was employed. A few years ago they started offering helicopter insurance, $65 a year. I so wanted to get it, but we had planned to come back and maybe take 2 months to get a job, well we are 4 months in. That policy was not purchased. We have a job lined up in May (yeah, census), we were so close...
So before they ever look at Little Guy, they had called in the big guns. Why, was he dying?
He took a seven foot fall landing on a hardwood floor. They stretch him out on our table after they take off his coat. We retell the event over and over. Little Guy is still trying to go to sleep. So I say, why does he need to go on the helicopter. Teenager is on my side, she says, "I don't think he will do to well on the helicopter, he's scared." By now the medics are on the scene (from town), so the volunteers are chatting (like we aren't in the room) the parents are thinking he should go over ground, but the SOP is that with a "non-English speaking person" when they can't tell us if their feet are tingling, blah, blah, blah.
I'm so stunned. In China, we couldn't get an eye exam forever for him because he was deaf. They didn't want to "waste" their resources on him because he was deaf and we were foriegners. In America, here is the complete extreme situation. Because he is deaf and Chinese, he goes via the helicopter, using the most resources available.
BTY, he knows the sign for hurt, which he was indicating his head hurt, his hip hurt. We never knew to teach him "tingling".
And the medics are questioning us like why, why, why would you not want him to go the fastest way. Like we are heartless for suggesting ground tansportation. Airlift people come in.
The nurse was really cool, she took notes on tape on her pants.
The put him on the board.
He goes in the ambulance.
We go in the car. Nobody extra gets to ride in the helicopter.
The abulance stops at the bottom of the hill at the LZ (landing zone), we are waved on to go to the ferry.
We arrive at the ferry to watch the helicopter fly over the sea toward Bellingham.
We got to cut in line and that was a little special. Although I was crying and dry heaving. Chris went and told the car we cut infront of that our son was airlifted. They wished us luck.
3:15, almost 1 hour since we called 911( 3 ferry runs in an hour), we rode the ferry across and drove to the hospital. The ferry workers offered to call anyone for us. They are so nice. I couldn't think of anyone to call. I couldn't stop crying.
The nice airlift nurse calls and says they arrived and that they even got him to smile once.
We arrive at the hospital. He's getting a CT scan.
We finally sign some papers. We never gave consent for him to be treated (or flown). By the time we signed, all that was left to do was an x-ray.
It was kind of scary how when you call 911, your child is basically out of your hands.
We get to see him, finally. He had peed his pants on the copter ride. He is signing dog. Over and over, get the dog over here, dog, dog. I'm so stunned, in the twilight zone. Did the helicopter people promise him a dog, OMG, who told my kid about a dog, what on earth is going on. I sure don't have $$$$ to run to the gift shop for a stuffed dog. He is signing, Dog, dog,dog. The doctor comes in. The ASL interpreter comes in and never shows her hands and says "the parents are here I'm leaving." Dog, dog, dog. I look around the room and there are two tackle boxes of medical equipment across from the bed. The ends of the boxes look just like a our little dog kennels. Oh, I think his little brain cells are working!!!!!!
The CT scan results show stuff that we thought was mistranslated at adoption(stitches translated for shunt for a head injury before we adopted him, really misleading on the part of someone who wanted to see him adopted) was indeed a real concern. It didn't show any new trauma.
The ER nurse had adopted a son at 5 from Hong Kong so she was really nice. We talked about bonding. You could still see the hurt in her eyes, 20 years later.
I'm glad Little Guy is ok. I didn't wish I was in China with an injured child, but I'm having a real hard time adjusting to life in America.
We came home in the car, on the ferry. In the parking lot of the hospital, Little Guy signed helicopter bye, bye.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on April 10, 2010 from Lummi Island, United States
from the travel blog: Reverse culture shock
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Moving on

Bangor, United States

The key to getting over reverse culture shock is getting a job. Unemployed, you constantly are shocked by how different things are than how you thought they would be. The price over everything is constantly being switched back to the old form of money. Good or bad, everything is always being compared. The only way to get out of limbo is to get a job and make some money! First the job helps to focus your mind on now rather than what you were doing before. Secondly, most jobs involve some sort of petty office politics or beuaracracy. Other peoples lives just are so intriguing. Having lived in a third world country I think it really clarifies what is a really big deal and what is just petty. Not having form QZ982 is not the end of the world that your co-workers believe it is.
My job was with the census...course I can't say much about it unless I want to go to jail. Privacy, a really big deal with the census. Going to jail, fines, also big deals. Knocking on doors...odd, but not really a big deal. 10 questions to ask, no big deal. I thank being a girl scout and selling cookies for the courage to bang on those doors. I did enjoy walking around the island and seeing all the wildlife. I saw a deer in labor and that was so amazing. The scariest thing (that I can talk about without violating privacy issues) was I walked right into a nest of sleeping racoons. Lets just say they are not fond of the census.
Of course the best part of the job, is the paycheck. When you get a paycheck, you are back in the economy. You don't mind (as much) paying $3 dollars for a pair of socks that you know in China just cost you 3RMB. You can deal with all the utilities that in Chna your boss so graciously paid for....
But the census was a temporary gig.
Our real job (adventure) is this summer managing the Mattawamkeag Wilderness Park and Campground. So goodbye, Lummi Island!!!! Hello Maine!

permalink written by  carseat tourist on May 29, 2010 from Bangor, United States
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Christmas 2012

Lummi Island, United States

Ok...so what happened to us?
Well we just aren't that happy adoptive family that everybody else blogs about. And I hate pity parties so I gave up blogging.
We are living on Lummi Island.
The Deaf School lasted 2 years, but now he goes to a school in Anacortes with a great
program. Deaf culture is a whole nother thing to its own
...we like his school now because they treat us like parents
instead of sponsors and they don't teach him to hate the hearing family and that he is disabled.
Anyway. Merry Christmas.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on December 26, 2012 from Lummi Island, United States
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Bridal Cave Vow Renewal

Camdenton, United States

Ever heard of those mass weddings on Valentine's Day? They always sounded cheesy to me an not intimate or sacred to
the seriousness of marriage, but the people look like they are having fun. Well, in Missouri they do FREE vow renewals at Bridal cave around Valentine's day. A bunch of guys at the husband's work go every year with their wives. Husband asked me to go a few months ago. That's right, it was a bunch of men's idea to do this. So we headed to Bridal Cave today in the snow. I made steampunk/cowgirl jackets to wear over our dresses and the whole family got dressed up.
Bridal Cave has excellent roadside billboards so there was no chance of getting lost. The roads were plowed, which is good since it is quite curvy. You arrive and check in at gift shop #1. The lady was so cute and she liked my chunky rock necklace that my daughter made for me and said that loves rocks so much that her boss jokes that she should just get paid in rocks.
We met up with some coworkers, and after there were 15 couples, you go outside down some stairs to gift shop #2. You may then select your bouquet of flowers from a really nice senior park ranger.And you wait for the previous batch of married folks to come out. You go in the cave (which is really nice and not smelly, and warm)to the second set of stalactites and you find your little niche with your husband.
Then a minister gave some advice about marriage and congratulated us for our commitments to each other and then renewed a traditional set of vows, except for the 'death do us part" and we kissed and took a bunch of pictures. It was really neat that when he was saying the vows I didn't even notice the other couples. I could see the minister because where he was standing was a little higher toward the front of the cave and I could hear him perfectly

but it felt like he was just talking to us. Very cool and intimate. We took a bunch of pictures...if you have the flash upside down in caves you get better pictures.
We went outside and they rang the bell for each couple.
Then when we went back up to Gift Shop #1, they gave us a LIFETIME membership to Bridal cave with free admission for LIFE, and a goodie bag. The goodie bag really rocked, 2 free movie passes, $10 gift certificates to 2 different restaurants, 2 wine glasses and some sparkling cider, box of heart shaped fudge, a necklace and a bracelet. I would have loved to hang out and people watch all the couples getting renewed, but my munchkins can only behave so long in suits, in a gift shop (but everything was rock so at least they couldn't break anything).

I am really happy that we got re-'married at Bridal Cave.

permalink written by  carseat tourist on February 9, 2014 from Camdenton, United States
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