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Rest and Cultural Fatigue

Yesterday I had the privilege of having my first ever parent-teacher conferences.  I had no idea what to expect, I just knew that it wasn't like what I'm used to in the States.  All the teachers for the High School were in one room and we just had tables set up with our names on them for parents to come visit us.  Out of my 50 students, I had 6 parents come visit, which was actually more than many people had.  As much as I enjoyed talking with te parents, there was one mom who really helped me out.

After we'd exchanged the usual pleasantries about her child and discussed her grades, she asked me questions I wouldn't think to ask the teacher.  She asked me how my transition into the country was going -- was I feeling settled, what has pleasantly surprised you, what has been disappointing or surprising?  She asked if I'd gotten over the cultural fatigue yet... I wasn't sure what she meant so I asked her to explain.  She said that there's a different type of fatigue we experience in the first weeks and months of a huge cultural transition that's largely due to the way our brains process information.  She continued to explain that when we walk down a street at home, our eyes notice most things but our brains only process what's moving or what's different.  However, when we drive down Ortigas (the main road near Faith), our brains are processing as fast as possible just to keep up with all the "different" things our eyes are seeing.  She said, "Don't be surprised if you go somewhere and find yourself exhausted before you even get there.  It only takes about an hour of that rapid processing for your brain to just be overloaded."  Suddenly, so many moments in the past six weeks made sense.  At one point I had secretly wondered if I was coming down with mono -- nope, all of it is cultural fatigue and it's totally normal.

This is one of those moments as well.  I woke up this morning and decided I wanted an adventure.  I heard many people talk about Mega Mall and how great it is and I found out it really isn't hard to get to from where I live.  So, I hopped on the correct transportation (after an hour of looking for it's loading station) and began the trek across town.  About 20 minutes into the car ride, it was like my brain just stopped and my eyes started to hurt severely.  I didn't think much of it and just thought maybe I'd not had enough caffeine or something.  Still, it continued.  So, I eventually just tried to close my eyes and not think.  That was the trick -- my brain was completely overstimulated and it needed to not see anything more for a few minutes.

As we neared the entrance to Mega Mall, I simply wanted to get out of the car, walk to Starbucks, and curl up in a big comfy chair with a hot cup of coffee.  For the record, I hadn't yet seen comfy armchairs in public places -- something I miss greatly about the US.  However, after I walked into the mall and went up one floor, I came across a place called Blenz Coffee Company -- free internet, great coffee, amazing cinnamon rolls, AND a comfy chair next to an outlet.  This place is a gem!  And it's MINE for the whoooooole afternoon.  I might not explore as much of Mega Mall as I should for having come all this way, but I don't really care.  I'm learning how to rest -- and not necessarily sleep -- but truly rest.  This atmosphere helps tremendously, so, if you don't mind... I'm signing off so I can enjoy the mocha in my hand.

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