3 Tips for Combating Loneliness in a New Place
Originally posted at: https://aprilsylvester.com/home/2018/2/28/3-tips-for-combating-loneliness-in-a-new-place-a-dog-person-with-a-cat
There are so many beautiful things about living in another country (see blog post). The food, the people, the scenery, learning new things. But there are also hard parts too. Not every day is an Instagram worthy picture of me hugging smiling kids or hiking cool hills. There are days that I just want to go to Starbucks but then I remember that there are no (proper) coffee shops in this city. Or when I want to go on a walk in the park…oh whoops. No parks. And there are definitely days that I just want a hug from my dad but he is an ocean away.
I hesitate to use the phrase culture shock because it is so crazily overused and a bit ambiguous. It is way bigger than that and actually more universal than you think. In fact, we have a word for it in anthropology. Anomie. “A sense of disconnection from society and a feeling of not belonging that result from weakened social cohesion.”
Here is the feeling I am talking about. See if you resonate with any of it:
No one understands me or knows who I really am. And when I do try to make connections, it just doesn’t work. I am alone. Everything is different and I don’t know how to navigate it–even the way that people make relational connections or eat or go about their day/work—so I cannot make a difference here because when I try it fails. It is too much. I wish I was back home.
Yes, I have thought all of these things. And whether you have moved across the world or just to the college dorm, I bet you have thought some of these things too.
At the beginning of last year, I was drowning in feelings like this. I felt alone and useless here in Zambia. I felt like I did not have any friends, was far away from my family, and things were crumbling at work. I just wanted to throw in the towel, but what do you do when going home is not an option?
To all you international workers, missionaries, college freshmen, new job holders, relocated married couples, literally all teenagers at one point or another, and anyone just feeling a little bit lonely: this is for you.
Now I have to tell you something–I LOVE dogs! Especially big ones. And I really did want to get one when I was struggling last year. I needed to know that something/someone was depending on me. A little living, breathing something in this world that would care if I was here or not. But dogs are a heck of a lot of work and money. So what’s the next best? A cat.
I found out through a local facebook group that there was a stray litter of kittens at a guest house in town. Zambians are not fond of cats (especially black ones) so they were free! Gosh dang it they were so cute jumping off of cat trees like sky divers and rolly pollying around the grass. So I scooped up a cute black and white one and took her home. (Side note: at the police road block on the way back home, the officer thought I was absolutely insane for hugging this little nugget so tightly to my chest. He thought I was even more insane when I said “I just became a mom!”)
Sophia is my little ray of sunshine when I come home. She always greets me at the door. And honestly she has gotten me through a lot. I have cuddled her, cleaned up her pee, vaccinated her, gotten pet sitters, moved house with her, and cried with her. This little fur ball doesn’t have drama and doesn’t talk about me behind my back. She doesn’t care if I say the right words or if I am upset one day. She just loves me. And that is what I need in this crazy world.