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Mike and Anita James

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Mar '13

One Door Closes, Another Opens

Have you ever had a to-do list that keeps growing?  We’re definitely in that moment in life. Honestly, I like making lists, and I like crossing things off my list even more.  When we leave for America in May for a year, we are going to put our things into storage, so you can imagine the list involved with that i.e. box things up, cancel cable, electricity, etc. We also have to take care of our car and tags during this time.  We need to de-register with the government as well. Besides that, Mike is calling churches in America to book services, we’re taking care of responsibilities with ICL, a church in Leiden, as well as with the national church.  It’s hard to imagine that in less than two months, we’ll be on a plane going back to the States.  When we get there, we’ll have a totally different to-do list.  Some things are already on it.  It will be things like: find a car, find a place to live, get furniture for said place to live, get Grace registered for school, start speaking at services, get everything in order for the camps we’ll be speaking at in North Texas and Arkansas.

The last time we went back for a year, I had a hard time adjusting back to American life.  A friend had told us that while you are gone, the country changes, and so do you.  I had heard it but didn’t really think it would feel that different.  After all, I grew up in this country.  It was different. Things that at one time was normal was glaringly different to me.  One of the first things that I noticed was all the restaurants.  It was shocking to see how often Americans went out to eat.  We have restaurants here in The Netherlands, and we occasionally go.  By occasionally, I mean about once every three or four weeks.  I found that most Americans go three or four times per week.  One of the traits I adapted to in The Netherlands was being a bit more direct.  I offended my friends and family without thinking.  I remember people saying that financial times were so bad that they couldn’t go out to eat as often.  Still thinking like I was in The Netherlands, I said, “Well, you shouldn’t go out to eat so much anyway.  It’s bad for you and costs way too much.  Besides, if your financial crisis means that you have to eat at home more often, it’s not that much of a crisis!”  Response? Blank stare and hurt feelings.  Whoops!  So, I know this time that I have changed even more and am not exactly like the people I left behind.  I think that knowing that will help the reverse culture shock a little bit easier.

We’ve been gone from America for four years.  In that time, I’ve gotten used to knowing where to go for certain things.  For example, in my quest to be healthier, I’ve started adding flax seed to some of my food.  As I added it to my hot cereal (which I can’t get in the US), I thought to myself, “Where do you buy flax seed in the US?” I’m sure that it’s at every grocery store, but I don’t even know where to look when I get there.  I guess that I’ll have to spend time going down store aisles slowly to learn what they have and where they put it.  So, if you happen to be in the same grocery store that I’m in, please don’t be irritated if I don’t move quickly enough for you; be patient with me.  I’m trying to feel normal in my home country again.

Now, I’m playing a little game with myself when I think about going back to America.  I’m calling it “I Wonder How Long It Will Take Before…”  Here are some of the categories:

I don’t complain about driving more than 5 miles to go to a store

I get used to the heat outside

I get used to the air conditioning inside

I get used to the huge stores in America

I stop running up to anyone with a foreign accent because I feel like neither of us are truly from this place

I stop having a reaction to the huge sizes of things like a gallon of milk, drinks (especially at restaurants), etc

I offend someone by saying something that I didn’t think was offensive

I’m sure there are plenty of things that I could add to this list, but right now, I need to get to work getting things marked off my list for this Sunday.  There is an egg hunt to organize, and the things aren’t going to mark themselves off my list!

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