Lori writes: We’re back in Nauta. Back in the relative familiarity of the jungle and, until a month ago, the only part of Perú that we were acquainted with.
What was it that made Arequipa feel so odd during our first few weeks there? Why did we feel so much like fish out of water? After all, it is a place with all the conveniences of a modern city. It has supermarkets and shopping malls, an excellent selection of restaurants, almost permanent sunshine, WiFi and traffic jams. It is also very dry and dusty and 2,333m above sea level.
The climate certainly played a large part in our discomfort. The very dry, thin atmosphere did our physical wellbeing no favours and the dust gets everywhere. Despite all the conveniences of being in a city I much prefer countryside and green open space as my daily outlook to concrete and lots of vehicles competing for insufficient road space.
On reflection though, the main reason for feeling out of my comfort zone was language school itself. I had not expected that to be the case – after all I always enjoyed languages at school so why not now? However, one to one practical lessons with someone I didn’t know proved to be surprisingly challenging and uncomfortable. I am an introvert who finds speaking with people I don’t know difficult in English, so being expected to spend 90 minutes in conversation with someone new to me was way beyond my comfort zone. Almost all the Spanish that I had learned prior to coming here flew out of the window and I found myself unable to respond, anxiety taking over. Gradually over the course of the first couple of weeks here things improved, particularly once I had managed to explain to my teacher what was going on. We established some ground rules for conversation and found ways of working that didn’t require original thought. By weeks 3 and 4 I found myself enjoying my lessons and homework (my favourite being translating worship songs and hymns from English to Spanish) and being surprised when the bell rang for the end of class.
Self-awareness is a very valuable attribute to have and something that I could do with a bit more of, but I am grateful that God knows me through and through and is never surprised at my response to different situations. As the Psalmist writes:
“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” (Psalm 139:3, NIVUK)
For now, however, I am very happy to be back in an environment that is becoming gradually more familiar – back in the fish bowl, so to speak – although I’m sure that there will be more challenging times ahead. Maybe next time we will be better prepared?