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(Old) Culture Shock

(Originally posted on May 22, 2011)

I’m in Dubai now. I wasn’t a couple of days ago but now we’re here resting on the way home. For the past two weeks I’ve been working in a third world country, and it’s been less intense than I expected but still quite intense.

Last night (first night back in Dubai), Mom and I went to a mall to get food and search for a lens cap for my camera (lost mine while taking pictures of mountains from the airplane–it fell under my seat and I think I freaked out the Arab lady behind me when I was trying to feel for it). Two weeks in this other country can be described on a sensory level as: Brown. Lots of brown. Real beauty too, but mostly brown.

And suddenly I’m in this huge, air-conditioned mall (one of the biggest I’ve been in during my lifetime) and there is color everywhere. And people everywhere. It’s huge and crowded and loud.

I think, in a small way, this was the first real culture shock I’ve ever felt. I was only gone for two weeks, but I practically gawked as I stared at all the activity. People back in the other country were jumping from taxi cab to gated home, with little or no power, sipping tea, and here it’s shoppers and light and so much color. I joked about it to Mom, but when we sat down at dinner I put my head in my hands and felt like it was going to split open. There was a ringing in my ears and I felt lightheaded and dizzy, and I kept seeing two images interposed over each other: All the crazy wealth of the mall and the mud house full of uneducated women. It physically hurt for a moment. Wasn’t expecting that.

So there you have it. First instance of culture shock.

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