The Shifting Kaleidoscope: Concepts for survival and sanity

August 1967  São Paulo, SP  Brasil

It is night and everyone is tired!
Our bus brakes screech to a stop and we all pull our bodies and our children from the bus as a pile of suitcases grows on the sidewalk.  Our host families walk around us, searching for the specific family they will take home.  Our Hall family comes together: two adults and five children, ages from 15 to 2 1/2
It is only a little after 6 pm (I will soon learn to say 18 hours) and it is midnight dark.  How can that be?
I ask one of our hosts. Somehow I hadn’t assimilated the fact of São Paulo not having long twilights like I was accustomed to in the states.

In the next few days, besides the classes we take for a week to introduce us into the Brazilian culture, I am bombarded with new realities.
“Do NOT drink out of the tap. Get your water for drinking ONLY from the big water filter in the kitchen.”
(The water from the tap is loaded with bacteria, etc., that can make you very ill . In the coming months, we will all discover this truth from first-hand experience.)

“Do NOT put toilet paper in the toilet.  Throw it into the basket with a lid beside the toilet. Reason for this: the plumbing cannot handle the toilet paper.  (The baskets are emptied daily into the trash. )
When one forgets this rule, an overflowing toilet can be an embarrassing result.  One more item one learns from personal experience.

NO HOT WATER in the kitchen nor from any of the faucets throughout the house!  The only hot water is in the showers: from an electrical unit in the shower head itself. (What keeps me from getting electrocuted???)
HOW can one wash dishes without hot water?  ahhh, that is an art I learned quickly…

ALL FOODS, if not peeled nor cooked, HAVE TO BE TREATED IN WATER IN LARGE BASINS WHERE THEY ARE SOAKED FOR 15-30 MINUTES, ADDING EITHER BLEACH OR SPECIAL LIQUID DROPS TO KILL BACTERIA, ETC.  THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!  This rule can actually mean the difference between life and death:  when one is careless, the result is so much misery one may wish they could die.

I help set the table for lunch, and put a plate on the table for the maid.
(I later discover the absolute need to have someone helping in the home.  I will write more about that in another blog.)  Our hostess asks me how many plates I placed .  I tell her, she does a mental count and tells me I’ve put one too many.
“And the maid?” I ask.
“No, the maid doesn’t eat with us. She eats in the kitchen.”
In the states, when someone came to do some work for me, we always ate together.  I was embarrassed and felt sorry for the maid. (With time, I learned that my “mirror” didn’t fit this situation.)

The classes are invaluable. The class that makes the biggest impression still helps me today, 49 years later.
Learn how to laugh – especially at yourself!
This is a new culture you are learning. Life will be full of challenges.  But as long as you can laugh at your mistakes, and even at your own tears and fears, you will make it through.  You will learn to depend upon God to greater depths, causing you to grow in understanding and compassion with others.
Remember how to laugh.  Learn how to relax – trusting God.  Learn!”

The kaleidoscope of life begins turning more rapidly around me.  image-woman-in-kaleidoscope
New language. New sights. New sounds. New smells. New colors. New stars in the sky.  Nothing is familiar.
I must keep God (the Trinity) as my focus so I won’t be drawn off into the unknown that surrounds me, and also help my children do the same.
Many verses in the Bible take on more depth and meaning.
One of them is: “Be still, and know that I am God!”   Psalms 46:10a
That is one powerful verse in my life!
What about you?  Are there times when you feel overwhelmed with the confusion of the world we live in?  What do you do?

HOUSE OF MIRRORS : Concepts for survival and sanity

Image result for picture house of mirrors
I’m 8 years old at a traveling carnival.
Holding onto my parents’ hands, we walk into a tent full of funny mirrors.  People stand in front of them, some laughing, some screaming hilariously , and others walking away with disgusted looks on their faces.
Mom and Dad take me to one mirror: the three of us are long and funny looking.  The next one we’re all short and grossly fat.  I try to touch the mirror, but my hand changes so much that I draw back, a little frightened.
I didn’t see anything funny and am glad to leave!
I’m 15.  We are visiting an entertainment park, and go into the house of mirrors.
My friends and I all started laughing at each other, and the images in the mirrors.
It was funny – but at the same time I didn’t like it  That person in the mirror was a “me” that I didn’t know.
I’m in my early 30’s and sitting in a class studying the elements of culture shock.
The teacher uses an illustration about a “house of mirrors” and, although we are the same, the images thrown back at us are of someone we don’t really know. There are glimpses, but we have difficulty seeing ourselves in the reflections
When we are in a culture that is strange to us, we do what we’ve always done, but the reactions (mirrors) in those around us too many times show us something different.
This creates an inner confusion and we begin to wonder who we  really are?
 We need a mirror with the correct reflection so we can regain our balance and make better decisions.
August 1967  Santos, Brasil
When I move to Brazil, a new language and a new culture inundate me from the moment I step off the ship onto the docks: the smells, the yelling by the dock workers as they unload our containers from the Japanese freighter/passenger ship – and I can’t understand a word!
I follow someone through the utter confusion. Boarding a bus to take us to Sao Paulo (about 50 miles away), I look out the window and see road signs that I can only guess their meaning. Looking up at the sky and back at the now miniature docks and ocean, the bus heads up the winding road on the mountainside, leaving the ship that has been home for three weeks. I am overwhelmed. I recognize the only thing that still looks the same is the sky but even THAT will become unfamiliar at night with different galaxies and stars.
The vegetation along the way, how the people dress, even the sounds around me on the bus, and the bus itself:  it is ALL different.  The only thing I have to hang onto that hasn’t changed is God.
My new life is beginning. How is hanging onto God’s hand going to help me as I walk into this humongous “house of mirrors.?”
Have you ever asked yourself this question when life suddenly changes?  Maybe you planned the change; perhaps it happened against your will.
Regardless of the reason, every day the question pounds in your mind:  “How do I get out of this?”Image result for picture house of mirrors