Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Surviving Abroad 101

During my Peace Corps service living abroad for four years, one of the biggest lessons I have learned is find peace in the things you cannot control.

In America we have a different attitude towards time. Things start on time. Don't be late. Time is money. Do things quickly and efficiently, multi-task. This attitude creates a belief that we have some type of control that if we do A and B then C will result. We expect if we take our car to have its oil changed, it will be done in a timely manner. We expect if we have a doctor's appointment for 1 pm that it will somehow start around 1 pm or at least we'll be given some type of attention by being put into a little room and having our blood pressure checked. We have this expectation that things should be done in a timely manner and if it isn't then by complaining to someone something will get done. We have this idea that we can control the situation to create the outcome we want.

In America we have this attitude that things for the most part work. The bank works. The postal service works. School works. Your house, your plumbing, your electrical wiring, your gas, basic utilities work. They don't fall apart. There is a sense of order, of schedules, and of reliability. This safe atmosphere creates an attitude of expectation, a feeling of a sense of control, of self-entitlement. If there is a blackout people complain and expect the lights to be on soon. If water is cut then there had better have been notices indicating when. If your mail or newspaper didn't arrive, someone will pay!

In other countries, things work differently. Flights are canceled as you are waiting at the airport. Electrical sockets suddenly burst into flame. Toilets may not flush for a year and the workmen who were suppose to show up on Friday never show. The last day of the semester and when finals will start is a big mystery. A listening lab filled with 100 computers doesn't work for a whole semester. A teacher will arrive to class and for some reason or another the students don't show up. A person is locked out of their house because a poor quality lock was installed that only after 4 months breaks. The driver of the taxi stops for an hour banquet just 40 minutes outside of your destination after being in the car for 5 hours already. All of these things, each and every one of them happening in just one week. In other countries, things work differently.

Living abroad one has to let go.
Let go of expectations.
Let go of control.
Let go of your faith that things work and will work in a timely manner.
Let go of your belief that you should be informed of important information.

Unexpected things are always happening and there is nothing you can do about them in a fast efficient way.

Be patient,
wait,
and find peace in the things you cannot control.

Yesterday, I waited a whole morning for a man to come fix my lock who was suppose to arrive at my front door at 9 am. Instead he arrived at noon. Why get mad, stressed, and impatient over something I cannot control. Instead while waiting, I had a nice breakfast, a 40 minute walk around the playground, a nice hot berry tea, and read a good book.

Be patient,
wait,
and find peace in the things you cannot control.

Everything works out in the end.

I was able to take a shower and get to class on time, and even if the man hadn't come until late evening, I still would have found a way to be stinky and teach my class. Things tend to always work out in the end, maybe just not exactly the way you would want them to.

Survival 101
Be patient, wait, and find peace in the things you cannot control.

1 comment:

tavares said...

I really like this one.