Our former Volunteer Relations Manager at Project Limón, Zane Randell, has returned from Nicaragua to serve as our Key Relations Manager at FIMRC Headquarters. As an introduction, he is sharing his experience with reverse culture shock and adapting to his new norms.
I just made a big transition here at FIMRC from my old job as Volunteer Relations Manager to Key Relations Manager. Although that difference in my job title is ever so slight, just switching one word out and putting in another, I assure you it’s quite a bit different. I do different things at this new job and I’m working with some new people, but these are quite minor compared to what I have so far understood to be the biggest difference in my new job: I was the Volunteer Relations Manager at Project Limon in Nicaragua, and now I am the Key Relations Manager at FIMRC HQ here in Philadelphia.
This geographical change has been pretty abrupt. There is not really an easy way to make this sort of transition, and I didn’t do myself any favors by arriving in Philadelphia - a city I barely knew, only 30 hours before I was supposed to start work on November 1st. In those short hours I managed only the most important things to fully prepare myself for my new life: bought some nice button downs and some pants (in Nicaragua I would occasionally wear board shorts to the clinic), ate a few donuts (Philly is known for these tasty round treats), and watched several hours of Netflix TV shows to do research to make sure I was caught up on all the pop culture references (proved to be maybe .05% effective). Sticking to the essentials.
After starting work and getting my life going, it quickly dawned on me that I wasn't in Kansas any more. Firstly, some quick math revealed that Limon, Nicaragua has a population roughly 1/1000th the size of my current place of residence. Needless to say my commute to work, previously filled with waving to friends from my motorcycle, is now not quite as full of "Hello’s." Next to explore was Philadelphia's waterfronts. This fine city has not one, but two, rivers cutting through it. I was excited to explore and see if these new waterways were any match for the beautiful Nicaraguan coast since 2 rivers meant twice the chance of a nice spot to jump in and swim. Turns out, no such luck. Especially considering the 40 degree outside temperature, this was not exactly looking so tempting.
And then finally, it was the grocery stores. Everyone always talks about the grocery stores, saying when you come back to the States you are just amazed at the selection, the options, and you are overwhelmed entirely by what you want to eat. I most certainly had this experience as I entered into my first Philadelphia grocery store. After locating it on a quick Google Maps search I wandered over to the Big 8, 3 blocks south, 3 blocks east of my current home. As I walk in the front door and start meandering through the vegetable aisle I was overwhelmed, and then immediately confused by my inability to recognize the vast majority of what I saw. “It’s exactly as they warned me!” I thought to myself as I perused. Aisle by aisle I wandered through, paralyzed not only by the vastness of the choices, but also by my total inability to read or even identify Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese/Thai characters. It turns out, Big 8 is an Asian market. But I walked out with some Bok Choy, Sambal Olek, Mustard Greens and a desire to return and buy some live Tilapia they had swimming around in enormous fish tanks.
So, in sum, my job is a little different, my place of residence, very different, but so far the move has been manageable, and honestly really exciting. Each day provides a new kind of adventure that I didn’t expect to find so interesting. Nicaragua was amazing and great, and I absolutely would not have traded those years to be anywhere else. As I begin my newest adventure here in this new city, the same excitement creeps in as when I first stepped off the plane and into the livestock crowded streets of Nicaragua.