Adaptation

We recently sat down with the school principal. A very nice, accomplished, and wise educator originally from New Jersey. And a content resident of Cali for some time.

“You’re at the bottom of the curve…” she said, knowingly, after we expressed some frustrations with life, school, the motorcycle that almost took the mirror off the car, and so on. Her response should be expected, I suppose. The school is full of young Canadians and Americans who come for two or three years and teach. She must see homesickness all the time.

It is always a bit surprising, a bit comforting, and a bit irritating all at the same time when you realize that you fit neatly onto some curve. Because it means you aren’t unique. You’re just one more person going through what so many others already have. In a unique way, perhaps, but really, it means we’re not special.

So I googled “homesickness curve.” And voila. It takes various shapes, mostly U or W-like. Start high and happy, crash down into the pits of culture (or reverse-culture) shock despair, rise out as you learn to adapt. Maybe crash again when you realize you don’t have any friends. And then, hopefully if you’ve stuck around, you rise out and integrate.

I think we’re on the upswing. That is, on the adapting side of things. We still bang on the steering wheel and say things we shouldn’t with the kids in the car, but they mostly ignore us anyway. And we’re getting really good at cutting people off and passing motorcycles on blind curves of roads just slightly wider than a bike path (they’re slow!).

With some modest adaptation has come the realization that we’ve actually been here for three months! And also that it is actually October. This hit me when our neighbor put up a halloween wreath on the door (it’s orange). You don’t realize all the little cues you use to know where you are in the seasons. Like the sudden appearance of pumpkins and huge piles of candy in the grocery store. Leaves yellowing. Cooler weather. Pumpkin farms. The smell in the air.

The season kinda changed here. It’s raining a lot, but still hot and humid. Pumpkins are in the stores and people are decorating. No giant, moving spiders on roofs, ghostbuster car adaptations, or elaborate haunted houses, but there are Halloween-y and October-y things. Which is a little odd all things considered (again, no concept of a harvest time here!). But I’ll take it.

I’ll also take the pumpkin pie my wife made the other day from scratch. First time ever. I expected a full disaster. Smoke, choice words, raw emotions… but it turned out perfect. It was amazing. We devoured it.

Perhaps this is adapting. Making the pumpkin pie from scratch rather than picking it up from the store (added plus: the perfume of fall it spreads through the house). Decorating per the calendar, not the feeling in the air. And, come halloween time—with the halloween parties (yep, already committed to two)—we might start on the integrating part of the curve, too.