After spending about three years living abroad in South Korea, moving back to Massachusetts was easier than I expected. I mean, of course it was strange at first. I could understand the conversations occurring around me, I instantly took my shoes off when I entered a house, and I became lazy again—driving anywhere and everywhere, even to stores I could easily walk to. But, I lived abroad in a city and I came home to a city and I feel as if that was helpful enough in ridding myself of any culture shock. After a few months of being home, I decided it was time for a new adventure. I have this habit of throwing myself into new environments and situations and hoping that I’ll float instead of sink.
So this time, I decided to move to a tiny, quaint, little farm town in eastern Washington. (Now, I didn’t just throw a dart on a map and pick this place. I had been here several times before. My best friend from college is from here.) I was excited to continue my life journey by driving across the good, old US for the third time (the other two times are a completely different story). The further west I drove, the nicer people became at gas stations, sparking up conversations about anything at all. After a few days of driving and sleeping in the backseat of my Toyota Corolla, I made it to my destination and have been awestruck at the beauty around me ever since. I’ve been here for three weeks and just now am I realizing the true meaning of “culture shock.” Country life is not just a catchy song by Luke Bryan. Grown men wear overalls. People drink more Mountain Dew than they drink water. The lingo is something I am not familiar with. I started working at a restaurant and someone ordered a Coors Light in a "pounder" glass. That is equivalent to a pint glass if you weren’t sure, cause I sure wasn’t. I don’t understand the humor and I don’t find people all that funny. Everyone knows everyone and everyone gossips about everyone, even about things not worth talking about. There is only one radio station that I can get in my car and the closest Walmart is 45 minutes away. There’s no such thing as ordering pizza on a rainy day because there’s only one local restaurant in town and the closest pizza shop is like 40 miles away. Uber doesn’t even exist here. Everyone drives a pickup and they can recognize whose pickup is whose. Jeans and cowboy boots are a part of everyone’s attire, even the children. The only boots I own are a fashionable pair of combat boots and I’m pretty sure I stick out completely because everyone instantly asks where I’m from and why I’m here.
What am I really doing here? I’m too scared to pass trucks on the windy roads, even though the dotted yellow lines say that I can. The speed limit in the town is 20 MPH, even though we could all be going 40. At night, it’s dark as hell and quiet, and the sound of the ice machine making ice in the kitchen is absolutely terrifying. There aren't even any streetlights. But even with all this, the hills and the grassy fields and the scenery around me are all just so wonderful that it makes me feel a little at ease. It’s just so bizarre to me that people have been living their local, small-town life all of their lives. That people marry their high school sweetheart at 18 without even having experiences in other states. How do you graduate from a class of 27 people and know that one of those people happens to be your soulmate? And all the while, the people back home are continuing their lives like I never even left it. The difference between the east and the west is greater than I had anticipated. But I’m here, and I won’t give up. I jumped right into the country pool of life and I know how to swim, so I will, or at least I sure hope I will. Wish me luck, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to need it.