The Real Meaning Of Culture Shock

March 21, 2008
Day 905

The Bay Islands consist of three islands: Utila, Roatan, and some other island I can't remember, but that's not important. The backpackers generally stick with Utila, and those with a bit more money go to Roatan. Sonia had been living in Roatan for the last year, and Ivan was going with her. As for me, I didn't much care which island I went to as long as I got there. I was supposed to be there a week earlier, but didn't make it because all the buses were sold out for the pending Easter week holiday, remember.

It turned out my decision had already been made for me. Sonia called the ferry company this morning, but there were none because it was Good Friday. Same deal with flights. Yesterday the water had been too rough for the ferry to make it, so that made two days with nobody coming from or going to the islands. That meant we had to stick around town with nothing to do because nothing was open due to the aforementioned holiday. It also meant tomorrow would be a long and hectic day as we struggled to get on the ferry, if it even left at all.

I think I've found the true meaning of culture shock in the last few months. Most people say it's something that happens right when you get to a new culture, and it goes away shortly thereafter as you make lifestyle adjustments. I think culture shock is more like being in a relationship. The little character flaws your partner has don't bother you at first. Maybe they even make that person more attractive. But over a period of months or years of being with the same person, those flaws work their way into your head and won't come back out again until you either leave that person or blow up in their face. Then when you look back at the situation years later, you find that time has its way of only making you remember the positive stuff and you're not even sure why you got so mad in the first place.

Culture shock for me has come in the form of all these damned holidays. These people will find any excuse to throw a party, and it disrupts the entire transportation infrastructure. There are no boats, no flights, and the few buses that still run become a deathmatch to embark. Hotels are all full and restaurants are all closed. There's nothing to do but sit around with your thumb up your ass and wait for it all to end. It wouldn't be so bad if it were only a few days per year, but it's nearly the end of March and I swear there's only been a few weeks so far this year without any holidays. And so today I walked around with the Colombian and the Spaniard with a look of accepted defeat on my face, like an old man who suddenly gives in to his oncoming incontinence. I had found my happy place.

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