Reverse Culture Shock

One would really imagine that I was in my element and completely euphoric about being back in Blighty right now, amongst family, and surrounded by English food. But, its completely crazy, because I am not, I am stone cold miserable! Its hard to talk about because I feel so lucky to be able to come back home for Christmas, and my grandmother gave me the money for my flight, and I know so many other volunteers would give anything to be able to come home right now, and so I feel guilty for feeling as ungreatful as I do!

I am more than convinced that this feeling of unhappiness is almost 100% because of my health right now.  I still cannot eat or drink properly, am taking loads of tablets, feel completely exhausted and uninterested in anything, have really bad back ache and stomach ache, and to top it off my pee is now almost black, and getting darker each time I go to the toilet!  I’ve googled the side effects of the medication I am on, and nowhere can I find any side effects of it changing the colour of urine, so I can only assume that its a problem with my kidney, which also would not surprise me as I know the result of my scan last week was that one of my kidneys was apparently ‘deformed’ from the parasites making me dehydrated.  I feel so ridiculously tired, and even my eyes hurt and I am drinking as much as I possibly can.  I just hope that I start to feel like my old self again soon, because I’m going to be the worst person ever to hang around with in the meantime!

I saw the Dr here when I got back, but wasn’t really able to talk to her as she spent the entire consultation running around the office looking for a stool sample pot, and telling me how busy she was.  She made me feel like a health tourist and implied that I should have been treated in Georgia given that I am now living there! I wanted to scream at her for her attitude, having spent over 17 years working for the NHS, and having left medical school here having pretty much bankrupted myself.  What annoyed me more was that she is from Germany where medical school is free and students don’t have to pay any tuition at all, so she has no idea how hard medical school was for me, with juggling weekend jobs and studies to try and make ends meet.  How dare she have that attitude with me! She promised to send me for a scan of my kidneys, but told me not to hold my breath as there was a massive waiting list, and the date would probably land after I had left the country after Christmas. Not the most reassuring!  But, I need to take a stool sample into the practice on Tuesday, and to have liver function tests done, so I will take a sample of my pee with me and see what the nurse says. Then on Wednesday I have an x-ray at the hospital (snow depending!).

I’ve spent every hour back home with my granny, who I do actually love very much, but she is already driving me crazy, and we just don’t communicate well at all.  I sit on my computer all day to keep me sane, and she spends her time either watching tv or reading the newspaper.  We have meals together, both with a tray on our laps, and watching tv. And I’m starting to feel culture shock as its crystal clear to me that my granny knows more about the characters on her favourite soap opera “Coronation Street” than she does about me, and she finds it strange that I don’t know all about the characters either!  Yet, my host grandma in Georgia speaks a totally different language to me, and we communicate mainly through gestures and expressions, but she knows much more about me than my actual granny does, and I feel a closer connection to my family in Georgia than I do to my family here, who feel like total strangers.  My granny only speaks to me when she complains about the government here or the weather, and she has no interest at all in my time in Georgia, has asked no questions, and seen no photographs.  But she considers herself to be an expert on Georgia because she saw it on the news during the war, and she has been to Bulgaria which is near to Georgia geographically! I can’t even be bothered to speak to her about anything, as we just end up arguing, and I get upset to think about just how much I am missing Georgia, and my new friends there.  She doesn’t understand how I can possibly have such close friendships in just a short space of time, but to me it feels different, as I know my group have all gone through the same processes together, and no one outside of that can understand, let alone my granny, who lives in her own world, far removed from my life in Georgia.  Its also strange to think that my grandma in Georgia would wait for me to come home from school everyday, and would always sit with me when eating, telling me to “chame, chame, chame”, yet my own grandmother won’t even make me a cup of tea when making one for herself, but wants me to run around doing jobs for her.   I feel so sick at the moment, but my grandmother here has no interest, but my grandma in Georgia was crying all the time because she was so worried about me.  I know my granny loves me, but its such a far cry from my experiences in Georgia, and I am finding it hard to re-adapt as I realise just how much Georgia has changed me as a person….and who knows how much more it will change me over the next 6months!

When I first arrived in Georgia, I found it strange that people looked so poker faced with people they didn’t know, and that they never smiled at strangers.  Now, I am surprised how false people seem when they smile at you, but don’t know you at all.  This was especially evident on my journey back from the airport by coach and bus, yet I always considered Brits to be so miserable looking compared to other countries I had visited.

I’m also finding it frustrating now I am back, as I have become so used to the hospitality of Georgians and their delight to be able to do things when you request them.  I remember arriving at the Sheraton Hotel and asking reception if I could borrow a pen to write a letter. “Of course” came the reply, along with not just a pen, but also paper and an envelope! Just buying a bus ticket when I arrived back in the UK was a hard task for the coach staff, and I’m back to grovelling again, and justifying myself, and expecting to fight for a yes answer! Amazing that I have changed so much in such a short space of time.

In Georgia, people don’t want for anything, and from my experiences so far, they are a happy go lucky people, who are just delighted when there is electricity! Here, I have heard nothing but complaints, about the snow, about the roads, about the cost of living, about just about everything. Yet the country looks so great and much better equipped than Georgia.  It seems that people just like to complain here!  The children at my school are trying so hard and are so excited about learning English and want to be able to contribute to Europe in the future.  But my granny just expects that they will be a drain on her money and that she doesn’t want more people to join Europe as we will have to pay for them and they will steal our jobs.  Such a petty given that most Georgians I meet have said that they want to live and work in Georgia and have no intention of moving abroad when Georgia joins Europe, they are proud of their culture and heritage, so why would they want to move!

The other thing that upset me, was that my host family gave me a package of different Georgian produce to give to my grandmother here as a present from them.  They really don’t have much to give, and my host mum put the parcel together, and transported it 5 hours on a marshrutka to make sure I had something to give to my grandmother.  I gave it to my grandmother here and she was horrified and repulsed because it contained foreign things that she had never seen before, and she totally missed the sentiment of the gift.  I know she didn’t mean badly, but it still upset me, and I realised how much of a lovely clean bubble she lives in. In my granny’s house there is routine and repetition, and a social etiquette, made worse by the fact that she is from Henley-On-Thames and lives in a totally different world anyway.  Its incredibly strange for me to have two very different families now, on other sides of the world, and I wonder how very different the values of both are.  They are just so different!  I am happy to have a new family and feel so honoured to have met them and to have been a part of their life, even for a short time, but I am also scared about the prospect of investing so much into another new family when I move to Tbilisi. I know everything has a habit of working out fine in the end, but I think I am still struggling with the emotional aspect of my experiences so far.

But, I did want a new challenge and new adventures, and I guess that is the price you pay when you invest so much in the people you meet and bond with, as you always have to say goodbye at some point, and I know that when I leave my grandmother’s house after Christmas, that will also feel strange.


About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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