Tag Archives: Culture shock

A Pooh Bear Needs Honey

In a previous post (Culture Shock) I wrote about the Immigrant Welcome Center, part of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Center (CVIMC).  That is where I was told that there was a name for everything that I had been experiencing in Canada, and that name is culture shock.  Doh!  I was also told that I am an “immigrant.”  Now how did that happen?  It shouldn’t be a shock.  I am in the process of “immigrating” to another country, I am not Canadian, I am an immigrant.  But I resisted that label.  I want to be home, where ever and whatever that is.  On the advice of the CVIMC staff I signed up for fieldtrips with the center in order to meet other immigrants and maybe make friends.  The first outing that CVIMC was doing was to a local honey farm, Fredrich’s Honey, in the nearby town of Cedar.  If you have any spare space for a late summer read, this is a good one.

 Not that we could have left the house without him, but particularly since Little Man and I were going to a honey farm we had to bring along Pooh Bear.  To keep him out of trouble, Pooh Bear waited in the car while we were learning about bees.  Before anyone tries to report me for animal endangerment, Pooh Bear is a teddy bear not an animal.  He is, however, almost “real” in the Velveteen Rabbit sort of way.  The important thing for our story is that I didn’t want Little Man or Pooh to get any ideas about balloons and little gray storm clouds.  I’ve learned from experience that Little Man has a good arm and can launch his teddies with surprising speed and accuracy.

Little Man and his tether.

Little Man and his tether.

 Partly because of the way the trip was structured and partly because I was preoccupied trying to keep Little Man out of trouble I didn’t have as much time to chat with my fellow immigrants as I would have liked, but I did start on the road to friendship or at least to having people recognize my face when I come by.  That was a good first step, and I’ll write more about this at another time.  In the meantime, let’s talk honey…

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

Visitors asking Margaret questions about bees, beekeeping and honey.

 The “farm” itself is mostly an occupied farm house with their Honey House shop located up the hill from their home.  For our “immigrant experience” we were met by Margaret Friedrich, a wonderful woman who is an immigrant from Ireland herself, though her experience in Canada began back in the 60s.  She and her husband, Theo, have been in the honey business ever since, and now her son and daughter-in-law are learning the ropes.  For anyone interested, Fredrich’s Honey also conducts workshops on beekeeping.  You can also read a bit about the ups and downs of urban beekeeping in a book I mentioned in a previous post by Novella Carpenter about urban farming in Oakland.  Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer is an amazing story about her own experiences as a farmer in the middle of urban sprawl and ghetto as she raises pigs, all sorts of fowl, and yes, bees in a small midtown apartment.

An empty beehive.  It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

An empty beehive. It will be added in to the active hives if a swarm is found to fill it.

 Margaret is an amazing trove of bee-based knowledge.  Some of it I had heard or read about before, but other parts were new.  For the case of their “farm” the bees were currently up in the mountains since it is summer time and that is where the water is.  They will come back in the winter, stay through spring when everything blooms, and then make their move again.  I was a bit distracted by Little Man during much of Margaret’s presentation, but that was to be expected.  I had him on a short leash, literally.  Little Man has a much beloved tether that he wears when out and about in crowded outside areas, like large zoos, farmers markets and fairs.  People often laugh or scoff at the leash, but I do not care.  It keeps him safe, it keeps him with me, and he loves it.  So there!  J  Normally at a place like a small farm with so few people I wouldn’t use the leash, but in this case I wanted to keep Little Man a safe distance from any fascinating bee hives, or other things that a toddler should not be sticking his hands into.  Did I mention that Little Man likes to run around trees and get hopelessly tangled in his lion leash?  Yes… that was much of my morning.

Tools of the trade.  Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

Tools of the trade. Little Man wanted the bee keepers hood in a bad way.

 The Honey House was admittedly my favorite part of the trip.  It is open year round, so anyone can come and purchase Fredrich’s honey and other bee-related products no matter what season.  I bought a lovely large jar of wildflower honey, and Little Man was given his own tiny jar of blackberry honey.  One of his and Pooh Bear’s favorite snacks is honey toast.  I will remind him of our visit to the farm each time he gets to bring out his little jar. 

Little Man inching his way towards and active hive.

Little Man inching his way towards an active hive.

 Fredrich’s Honey rotates in different types of honey throughout the year as different plants come into bloom.  Later this fall they will have a Fir Tree honey that I must go back to try.  I am a huge fan of tree syrups; maple is my favorite but Indiana’s Shag Bark Hickory syrup is a close second.  It is lighter in color than maple syrup, but is not as sweet and has a light smoky finish.  Always up for new tastes, I am excited to try a tree pollen-based honey.  I also want to call soon to see if they have any dandelion honey in stock.  This honey is not produced by their bees and they were out of stock when I visited, but woman at the Honey House described it as rich and dark, gotta try it!

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

Two younger visitors in front of the Honey House.

 My final purchase from Fredrich’s Honey was a pair of two beeswax candles.  The scent was of warm honey and bees; not cloyingly sweet and definitely not artificial.  The candles smelled like what I want “home” to be.  Now I just need to find the box with my candle sticks in it so that I can enjoy that scent in the evenings while I write.  Maybe it’s in that large stack over under the stairs?  Oh bother…

Pooh Bear's dream... honey toast for life.

Pooh Bear’s dream… honey toast for life.

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Culture Shock

The other day I was “diagnosed” with culture shock by a very nice woman at the Immigrant Welcome Center (part of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Center – CVIMC).  Mind you this was after a day of multiple, very polite no’s from an assortment of Canadian institutions ranging from driver’s licenses to health insurance and back again.  I can do nothing until my paperwork for Permanent Resident status is filed.  Even hearing about the CVIMC was a fluke as a nice fellow immigrant in line for a driver’s license recognized our stunned looks and suggested we go to there for assistance.  I didn’t want to go to the CVIMC.  I didn’t want to be an immigrant.  I just wanted to be “home.”  Once at the CVIMC I nearly lost it after hearing about a few more no’s that I would soon encounter.  This is when the woman kindly told me that there is a term for what I was experiencing and it is called culture shock.  Now she had my attention.

 For an anthropologist to be diagnosed by someone else as suffering from culture shock was both embarrassing (that I didn’t notice the “symptoms” in myself) and enlightening.  It would never have occurred to me to think about my experiences in Canada in that light.  For any of my former students who might be reading this, it feels like all of my past exams where I’ve asked questions about culture shock have come back to bite me in the… well, you know.

 For any readers who are not former students, or for my students who slept through that lecture and therefore missed those questions on Exam 1, let me explain.  Culture shock is defined as “a syndrome precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all your familiar cues” (Golde 1986:11 in Delaney).  This disorientation can result in “frustration, [as well as] repressed or expressed aggression against the source of discomfort, an irrational fervor for the familiar and comforting, and disproportionate anger at trivial interferences” (Golde 1986).  Welcome to my life in Canada.  In the classroom this is where I have a fun discussion with my students sharing now humorous experiences they have had while traveling.  Invariably there are stories about things going wrong in foreign bathrooms, about never eating with your left hand in Morocco (or insert any Middle Eastern country name there), about how when traveling in Great Britain you should always look both ways before crossing the street (Americans often look the “wrong” way and then step out into full traffic), and recently an increasing number of stories from students experiencing culture shock while serving with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 The culture shock story I always share is from my first field season as an archaeologist in Turkey.  The region that I specialize in is so far south and east as to be almost Syria or Iraq depending on the direction you are facing.  This is one of the reasons why I am not actively in the field at the moment… one of the reasons.  While I LOVE traveling in Turkey and Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world, at the time that this culture shock experience took place I was a long way from Istanbul and not feeling much Turkey love at the moment.  I had been in the field for eight weeks, was exhausted from the relentless excavation work, worn out by the 140 degree heat that literally felt like you were in a convection oven (hot air blowing down on you from the sky as well as radiating up at you from the hot stone streets), and I had just gone to the internet cafe to find that I had no emails from friends, family or boyfriend (Dave!).  Basically I was in an all around foul mood.  I was also dressed in conservative Muslim style out of respect for the culture, which in this case meant I was wearing a long, flowy skirt, a button-up shirt with sleeves that covered my elbows, and a head scarf that covered my hair.  I was a portrait of modesty.  However, I am also 6 ft. tall and fair complexioned amid a sea of very short, very tanned, dark-haired Turks.  You could put me in full hijab, head to toe black veils with a niqab face veil, gloves, the works and I would still stand out like a sore thumb on the streets of Diyarbakir.  Or perhaps more like a Darth Vader strolling through the bazaar shopping for cute head scarves.

 All of this leads up to me walking back from the Diyarbakir çarşa (covered bazaar), feeling home sick, and walking past a Turkish man heading the other direction.  As he passed me, he gave me a quick look over, up, down and back around, and said “Allah, Allah, mashallah…”  Did I mention I was in a foul mood?  He’s lucky it took me a minute to figure out what he’d said.  A rough translation is basically “OMG, forgive me for what I was just thinking.”  I was so tired, and so tired of trying to be respectful just to get ogled and treated like a circus freak (or at least it felt like that at the time), that if he had been closer I cannot vouch for what I would have done.  At the time I fantasized about having a full New Yorker Matrix-esque reaction involving all sorts of martial arts moves that even if I had wanted to I could not have pulled off.  Remember the part about culture shock and “disproportionate anger at trivial interferences?”  Yeah…

 That is a story that I share with my class whenever we first start talking about culture shock.  As horrible as culture shock can be while traveling, for me it has always been balanced out with other good travel experiences.  Great people I meet, the fantastic kindness of strangers, an unexpected lunch in a lush garden that looked like what I imagine the Garden of Eden to have been, swimming in the Euphrates River, and other fun memories.  But I’m not travelling now, and in fact once I file my paperwork for Permanent Resident status I will not be allowed to leave the country until that is finalized.  Also, we’re talking Canada here people, not Turkey, not Lebanon, not Spain, not someplace that looks or sounds or tastes all that different from what I used to call “home.”  This is a place where I never even considered experiencing culture shock, but I do feel like I’ve been stripped of all of my familiar cultural cues (see previous posting about not being able to figure out driving speeds/distances, temperatures, etc.), and I do find myself struggling to not respond with irrational anger at simple situations.  Culture shock without the benefit of having fun travel experiences to round out the struggles.

 So now I find myself in the odd position of being an immigrant.  I don’t know why I have resisted that title so much, but I have.  And in the meantime, one of my best places for making friends is among other immigrants.  The woman who “diagnosed” me stated another glaring fact; that when you move to a new place and don’t have any friends you are more likely to make friends with other people who also want to make friends.  And guess what, it is often other immigrants who have no friends and want to make new ones.  Last week Aiden and I went with the Immigrant Welcome Center to visit a bee farm in nearby Cedar, and this week we’ll be touring a local lake and nature center.  I am looking forward to sharing Canadian culture shock stories with others who are going through the same thing.

 -next day-

After writing this post, the very next morning Little Man was singing one of his own songs.  He LOVES music, and will sing and play whenever he can.  Little Man is still getting the hang of dancing, but he loves to play guitar on just about anything he can find, from a fork, to a piece of drift wood, to a plastic leg from his toy barbeque, he rocks out all the time.  He also likes to use all of those things to drum around the house.  Two of his favorite places for drumming are the living room front window ledge or the living room table.  He often signs along to his pounding… I mean drumming… but most of the time he sings made up words or just yodels at the top of his little lungs, which can be quite impressive.

 Then this morning, after writing about culture shock the night before, Little Man started drumming and singing at the top of his lungs in the living room while I was getting ready.  Suddenly I realized that I could understand the words he was singing; three words repeated over and over again with joy.  I figured I must be hearing what I wanted to hear because of what I’d been writing the previous evening so I asked Dave if he heard the words being sung.  Dave stopped for a moment and with a big smile said “yes, he’s singing ‘too far away.’”

 What happened is that just before Little Man started singing this morning, he was talking with Dave and asking if he could go to his beloved day care provider’s house in Pella, Iowa.  He misses her and her daughter very much and asks about them often.  So this morning Little Man asked Dave if he could go over there to play and Dave said that unfortunately no, he couldn’t go since they were “too far away.”  Then Little Man went out to the living room, picked up his “drum sticks” and started playing and singing “too far away” over and over again.  I was near tears, but Little Man was smiling, singing and playing with reckless abandon.  Joy and sadness together.