One year ago, we left our home in Michigan for a life in Central Asia. I was excited, pregnant, nervous, hopeful, optimistic, and a little scared! It is so weird to think that a full rotation around the sun has already taken place since last May, but, that’s how life always feels, isn’t it?
My “Five Year Journal” tells me what I was doing each day of May last year. Instead of reliving the excitement as I make my way through the journal, a weird sinking feeling sets into my abdomen. I knew this would be a difficult year but I suppose I didn’t fully understand just how challenging it would be. How much I would change. I guess I was naive (hopfeul?) to think that all of the changes that would take place would be positive, wasn’t I? Ah well... it’s ok. If I had come here pessimistically, surely I wouldn’t have survived. Sometimes, ignorance really can be bliss :-P.
Lets see... how have I changed? I guess I could start with the positive changes I can see in myself... For example, I can cook now! and not just open-this-can-and-this-box-and-mix-it-together kind of cooking. Like, homemade cooking, people. I mean, I can make my own croutons and cream of mushroom soup! Not that those are particularly difficult foods to manage, but considering we lived off of eating out and pasta in America, I am impressed with myself haha. What else? Umm, I can take a bus. I can take a bus with a stroller. I can carry on a conversation in another language. I can walk a long distance in high heels. I can function off of 4 hour chunks of sleep. I can do receipts and manage our finances. I can see the good in normal things I wouldn’t have thought twice about in America, and I have learned how to celebrate every bit of joy that comes with any positive experience. My heart has grown at least 3 sizes because of the little girl that I birthed in November. Regardless of how difficult a situation is, once it has passed, I can always find a way to laugh about it. I’ve learned an entirely new level of being a good friend to others and what ‘being there’ for someone really means.
On the other side, I’m much more cynical than I was before. I would estimate that 1/3 of my Facebook Friends are ‘hidden’ from my feed because I just don’t have the patience for the amount of whining and complaining that some people do. (My tolerance level for bad attitudes is at an all time low.) I’m less hopeful about what our life can mean and be here. I spend a lot of time on the internet because sometimes being connected to America is the only thing that keeps me sane (Here’s looking at you, Skype and FaceTime!). I didn’t realize my adult self was still capable of having temper tantrums but, unfortunately, I am. When I am struggling and there is no obvious reason for it, my brain usually settles on just being mad at Josh. I actually feel further from God now than I did when I got here.
Overall, I think the positives are outweighing the negatives. I’m thankful for this journey. It has forced me to understand myself in new and deeper ways. It has forced me far enough outside of my comfort zone on a consistent basis that my comfort zone is much wider than it ever was in the past. I’ve realized that I AM brave, and that I am both stronger and weaker than I thought I was.
I think I am finding a healthy balance of how to be ‘Leslie’ in another culture, while still embracing and respecting this culture for its own social norms. I wear clothes with color. I say “Thank you” to the bus drivers. I dance in the elevator when I’m in it alone because everyone is so serious in this city and sometimes, I just need to be silly. I smile at people on the street. I make small talk with the workers at our coffee shop even though they don’t talk back very much. (Though my friendliness gets me extra stamps on my ‘frequent visitor’ card from time to time). I still write blog posts... although they must remain unpublished. I’m still me, just a different ‘me’ than I was a year ago.
I am starting this next year of life here with a more, shall we say, cautious hope. I can only imagine what this year holds. (Travels... struggles... pregnancy #2.... visits from friends and family...?). It is, of course, very nice to be back in this space... even if it’s just for a brief visit. As always, thank you for reading!