It happened in a pretzel shop.
Once my plane landed back in Fresno, I hit the ground running. Within about 12 hours of landing, I was already out having lunch with friends and having family dinners. Within 36 hours, less than two days after arriving home from Germany, I went out shopping with my mom, sister, and aunt.
While we were out shopping, we went out to an outlet mall with all kinds of shops. Famous Footwear, Claire's, Lane Bryant, Bath and Body Works, etc...There were many people around the stores that day, and I was able to understand every word being spoken around me by every person. I was back in my English-speaking American culture after being away for two months!
Apparently, though, two months is all it takes to have the 'joy' of experiencing reverse culture shock.
My sister, mom, and I stuck together as my aunt went to another store that only she wanted to shop in. We went into a couple of stores before heading into a pretzel shop that smelled deliciously tempting.
Once in the shop, I read the flavor options to my mom and sister. Well, okay, I read the three or four that sounded good to me out of the 10 or so listed.
Asking my mom and sister which one they wanted to share, they both told me, "I don't know which one I want...you decide." I insisted that they all sounded good to me so I wanted them to chose, and they also insisted that I make the decision.
That's when it happened.
In the middle of a pretzel shop my brain shut down. I literally could not make a decision. As tears threatened to spill out of my eyes, I became overwhelmed and firmly told my mom, "I can't make this decision. I need you to make it this time."
I couldn't get out of that pretzel shop quick enough. My sister, mom, and I found a picnic table outside of the shop so we could sit down to enjoy our freshly baked treats...but my mind was still in overload as I gazed off into space.
My mom was asking me what was wrong, and I honestly don't recall what I told her in response. Trying to avoid questions, I probably something like, "I'm fine - just tired and jet lagged." I guess my sister couldn't quite hear what was being said, as she asked, "What??"
I'm usually pretty mellow. Rarely do I snap - but for some reason, I did that day. Before I could stop myself I couldn't help but snap out, "I don't want to talk about it!!"...As I stood up and walked away...and kept walking. The tears that threatened to spill out of my eyes 10 minutes earlier had finally acted upon their threat.
At the table they were asking me questions about what was wrong. When they called my phone after my "moment", they asked more questions. I kept telling them I was fine. After all, how would I be able to answer their questions about what had just taken place, when I didn't know the answers for myself? All I knew was my mom and sister weren't the cause for my reaction...It wasn't their fault, and I felt awful for responding in the way that I did.
Even four days laters, I still don't know what came over me. I've heard about this happening to missionaries after they spent 2-4 years overseas in other countries. But, I've never heard of this happening to someone being gone for just two months. Even after spending six months in London, England, I never had a moment like this. Sure, I had other types of moments when I returned home from London - like realizing how many new songs were on the radio in just half a year or how many new slang terms were imbedded into the American vocabulary. But nothing so...dramatically overwhelming. (Granted, I do realize England is a different culture than Germany and my surroundings and experiences were completely different.)
For those of you wondering, "You were only in Germany two months? I thought you were going to be there for six months?" I realize I have confused a lot of people. My plans changed and I chose to return home four months early. That choice was not an easy one. A part of me wonders if my moment in the pretzel shop was a result from my mind being completely overwhelmed from making many big and difficult decisions in the recent days and weeks, that it hit a point of being unable to make a small, simple, decision.
Who knows why I reacted the way I did, but here's to hoping that will be the only moment of its kind!
The Travelin' Chick,