When I need a challenge I go to Asia. Upon my arrival to Manila and getting outside the airport I got immersed into the city traffic, consisting of cars, taxis, jeepneys, tuk-tuks and bikes. ASIA! I’m getting exstatic just of the soudn of this word!
However, just a few years ago when I first set my foot on the Indian land I felt like puking pretty much anywhere I went, and my only thought was GETTHEHELLOUTTAHERE GETTHEHELLOUTTAHERE! >.<
Nepal followed, just one year later: suprisingly for myself, I decided to explore Asia more and alone – you know, I was looking for trouble back then.
At the moment, I am living a different life, in a buddhist monastery in the Philippines, having only one day off weekly and a strict monastic schedule the rest of the week.
This blog post is about 4 stages of adaptation to a new place. It's not about how fast you can learn to digest weird food, lear to dance a jig on the table after a pint of Guinness, – it's about how you coem to love the new country you're living in6 althugh its culture might be as far from yours as your nose from your toes. Stretching the metaphor, let's learn how to reach your nose with your toes! On your own!
So, when you arrive to a new place and kick yourself out of the airport into the urban wilderness, you start the 4 stages of adaptation to the new country:
Stage 1. Denial. These conditions are inhuman.
You just start from this. Physically and mentally you wanna puke. You don't understand how human beings can actually survive in these conditions. They must be aliens. How one can possibly pee behind a cow in a narrow blind alley? Why these people brush their teeth, wash their dishes, do the laundry and bathe in the same water where they throw the ashes of their ancestors? Oh no, they're surrounding me and snapping pictures with cellphone cameras! They've just buried a relative under my window and keep singing prayers upon the grave all night! Etc.
Stage 2. Denial. This life is not for me!
You get it now. Humans can actually live here. But not you. You grew up in a refined Western society. You can’t survive this kind of life. I met some expats in Kathmandu who came to live there. They expressed admiration with music, food, culture, religion, scenery and other stuff. I was listening and nodding with a smart face, and into my face was flowing the mass of CO2 and dust from the road.
In the mountain village where I lived I watched the lives of local families: up and down the mountain every day ont heir way to school or fields, signing songs and – since recently – watching me. I thought back then: they look happy with what they’ve got, but this is not my life and it will never be.
Stage 3. Denial. Wrong timing.
Then you coem to the conclusion that the country is marvellous and the people are in fact amazing, but different, the food smells pretty good, but different, but you keep seeing dreams about hot bucket of coffee, chocolate muffins, fluffy bed and a kind of public transport where you ride inside and not on the top or hanging on the side. You start thinking that you came here on a wrong day/wrong year when you were not morally ready for this adventure. If only you got here earlier/later – in a better state of body and mind!
That’s my view of India right now from that day when I escaped it (with a hell of a headache and food poisoning). I reached the 3rd stage of denial but still didn’t get to love the place.
Stage 4. The opening of your mind (look, the brain is falling out!)
At this stage you reach some sort of enlightenment. All the thigns that you understood logically before now enter your mind in a different way, you start living them truly and profoundly. You no longer measure a foreign culture with your own standards, you treat people with patience and respect, you still get ripped off by local taxi drivers, but you gradually learn to be cheeky and haggle. Jackfruit seems like a nice food, you just don’t eat it before goign on a date. You breathe the new air and drink the new water of life.
I’m almost at stage 4 here in the Temple now.
May patience and endurance be with you!