Reverse culture shock is continuing to throw your toilet paper in a trashcan, paying in cash, desperately searching for olive oil at every meal, and refusing to eat anything but plain [Greek] yogurt for breakfast. While I find myself doing most if not all of these, I don’t think I have experienced a ‘shock’ in my return to the U.S. I mean come on; I grew up here. Instead, I have brought habits back from Greece that, while normal to most Greeks, make little sense in an American context. During my time in Greece, I was systematically encouraged to change certain American habits I possessed in order to adopt new, culturally-shaped Greek habits. Now in America, I’m challenged to do the opposite. For example, instead of thinking before you jaywalk as in America, in Greece you must jaywalk before you think. Otherwise, death is certain. Did I jaywalk in Greece, yes. Did I become a pro at jaywalking in Greece, you better believe it. Habits like these don’t quite transfer into an American context, but they can keep some value. Let’s just say learning how to jaywalk has potential to be a universally applied skill.
Sorry for the rant on culture shock, but I was told that I would experience it both ways. I didn’t. Why I did not is a more interesting question. I think the answer lies in my approach, the mindset with which I initially went to Greece and with which I return to the U.S. I did not go to Greece simply to go to Greece. Similarly, I did not start this blog simply to write about my time in Greece. I went to Greece to learn about people, to experience a different culture wrapped beautifully in a completely foreign context, to see Jesus in the daily routine, and tell people about that Jesus. Maybe this is why I was not shocked by something culturally different. I expected a difference, but I was also willing to adopt that difference so that I might talk to people in a way that relates to them. Same with the blog. The blog existed as another medium for me to tell people about Jesus. Through it I invited readers to come alongside me in my adventures and experience my own experiences first-hand. It was a place where I could extrapolate my thoughts and explain what I saw. Plain and simple.
I wrote about what I saw on my blog, but many didn’t realize what I was looking for until after they had read it. At school in Greece, I had many interesting conversations about Jesus, spirituality, church doctrine, types of churches, truth, etc., but my favorite conversation was about religiosity. A few days after I would post something to my blog, someone would begin a conversation with me using these words: “So I hear you’re pretty religious…” Every time I would smile. I never really started to hear this until I got to college. I actually never knew how to respond. I was always taught to dislike religion in the sense that simply praying, going to church, reading the Bible, crossing yourself, reciting, singing, etc. can’t save you. Performing well doesn’t make God love you more and performing well can never satisfy you in itself. As I have been deemed ‘religious’ by many of my friends, I have found that there is a type of religion that God accepts and even adores: seeking out the weak, unpopular, and ostracized and loving them in the way that Jesus loves them (an unworldly way). God loves religion that speaks for those who cannot speak, that befriends those who people disregard, that willingly suffers alongside those who are suffering, but that also points them towards the Jesus that sought and seeks them first. This entails complete devotion to Jesus on a personal level, it means ‘keeping oneself from being polluted by the world,’ it means allowing God’s love for himself, for mankind, and for justice to motivate you.
I absolutely loved my time in Greece, I love the people there, the friends I met and the refugees I spoke to, I love the sea-encapsulated yet mountain-laden topography, I love the language that only sounds a little less foreign to me now, I love the islands and coastlines, the sailboats decked out in lights, and the rich, visible connection to Ancient Greece, but I love most that Jesus loves Greece. He loves the people and their culture exactly where they are. Even if they don’t know him, he is for them.
I want to thank all of you for following along with this blog and for partaking with me in my adventures. You allowed me to discover a love for storytelling and picture-taking, something I may now consider pursuing after college. As for the blog, I am putting it to rest for a season. It may be resurrected sooner than I expect, but until then I will focus my time towards school (and writing my way through it) and everything lacrosse. If you have any questions for me involving Greece or anything else, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I will reply asap. Be sure to look back through pictures, they will make these blog posts come alive. Thanks again for your support!
P.S. Here is the link to more photos: https://goo.gl/photos/DNFVdZmvD7qcykqw9
P.S. I made it on a sailboat my last day in Greece.