Friday, December 13, 2013

Transitioner vs Adaptor [Guest Post: Peter Eckert]

One of the unexpected pleasures of being abroad and blogging is the sudden communication opening it offers. One acquaintance of mine from high school contacted me through a letter to let me know he had been reading my blog and had found it encouraging. I met Peter when he and his family were in Hershey, PA "on furlough" from Niger.  He had, for all intents and purposes, grown up there. During that year (ninth grade for me), the Eckert family was part of our home schooling community based in the Hershey EFree church. I was surprised to hear from him about a month after moving into my new Dobrich home.

I'll be honest: I didn't "get" the Eckerts when they lived in Hershey. They were a family that functioned along completely different cultural lines. I was in ninth grade. I didn't have the maturity to even imagine what it was like for them and acted accordingly: with distancing and no small amount of my own awkwardness. Ironic and humbling, then, that this "strangeness" is exactly what has enabled Peter to speak to my current experience 10 years later. His wisdom and insight on the Bulgaria process have been invaluable.

He gave me permission to share some with you. I have constructed several posts out of his letters and emails. They hold together as a short treatise on the beauty and struggle of Cultural Transition. It will appear on the blog in several pieces.

I’ve noticed some thread of hope in [your blog] that tend to converge toward being finally culturally acclimated—completing the transition. From what you’ve posted, I think it sounds like you’re acclimating really well and in a very healthy manner. I’m not sure how much it’s worth coming from someone that doesn’t consider themselves completely acclimated, but in reference to those I know that have undertaken similar projects, I think it’s true. At the same time, I’d like to caution against hoping for that transitioned moment, because Transition Time is converted in units of decades—it’s impossible to rush the restructuring of the self. Cultural adjustment is a different story—the Adjustor figure out what he/she needs to get by, and lives on that. They have it easy, because though they experience the same things the Transitioner does, their experience is different and they complete the intercultural experience with only marginal changes to who they fundamentally are and reintegrate with the sending society without a second thought. The Transitioner’s experience is much deeper, richer, and more impactful, but it comes at a cost of being more drawn out, confusing, and painful.

You may not have time to encounter the difference. Those two modes share a common starting point.

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