Adaptation and Identification

Traveling as much as I do is an exercise in adaptation. My husband and I stay overseas often for an extended period of time – several weeks or months.

We don’t stay in tourist areas, but live where locals live. I prefer it. Sometimes there is a lot of difference between the two. I get a much better perspective.

Although my primary frame of reference is American, I am very happy to say that my frame has grown and keeps growing. Adaptation to other cultures has given me a better and broader worldview.

Since we do live among the people for extended periods, there are many things I need to discover about each new location. Will I be close to public transportation? Are schedules reliable? Do many people speak English? Can I safely walk in the neighborhoods? Are dogs behind fences or are they allowed to roam the streets? What is expected of pedestrians?

Being exposed to different cultures leads to identification with the local people. There are times I have an “aha” moment thinking, “That’s why they do what they do!” Discoveries first hand make a bigger impression than reading about the culture or hearing someone else describe their experiences.

The most surprising thing to me has been reverse culture shock upon returning to America. Things I have gotten used to overseas – great public transportation, the abundance of woods with hiking trails and cheese I can afford – I often miss when I go home. Most of all I miss my new friends.

I am often eager to return to places I have been to see my friends, but I also miss my family, home and friends in the U.S. when I am overseas.  I often wish I could be in more than one place at a time.

Jesus chose to leave Heaven and adapt to the limitations on earth for our sakes. He identified with us. I don’t have to wonder if He misses His friends because He, unlike us, can be in both places at once. His Spirit is still with us.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… (John 1:14a).

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