I’ve had a chance to talk to a few people who have worked in Central Asia/Middle East region and the key word that keeps coming up is “flexible.” I’ve been told by a number of people, “The best thing for your health and sanity is if you have a flexible attitude.” “Be flexible – things are not usually what they appear on paper.” “Flexibility is key when you are told to go from this office to another office.” Etc.
I’ve had different stints living abroad and regardless of where I am, I’ve found that there is a certain level of a”ambient stress” one lives with when you’re always scrambling to figure out where you are, where you’re going, if you’re getting ripped off, trying to figure out what someone is asking you, wondering if you have the right paperwork, and so on. Adding the varying levels of general societal safety into the mix and the diversity/minority factor in = increased levels of ambient stress.
I think if you expect it – it can still be tough- but at least you know that it’s just a part of the experience of being the proverbial “fish out of water.” But there are tons of things that can make this worth it. In my case, it’s the chance to learn about a still hazy part of the world where the higher education sector is emerging. A part of the world that is trying to find its footing after the dissolution of the USSR. A part of the world with a rich history and a culture that extends back thousands of years, as well as complex language contexts. Then there is the chance to build relationships with different people, and of course, the possibility of backpacking along the Silk Road. 🙂
All this to say, at one level, this summer has been good preparation for being flexible. I’ve been doing a bunch of home renovations – mainly on bathrooms. And I have basically been applying the rule of thumb my Seebee brother told me – “When you plan out X amount of time for a project, just double it.” Good advice. I thought this week I could de-popcorn two bathrooms, paint the ceilings, paint the walls in one bathroom, install hardware, and tile… I’m on track to get the de-popcorning and painting done. Tiling, I guess, will be left for the end of July. Part of the problem is that you really need to paint during the day when you can see where you need to touch up, etc. So then, half the time just goes to literally waiting for paint to dry. So, that’s what I’m doing. Waiting. Painting. Changing plans – adjusting. But at the end of the day, if it doesn’t get done, I tried. In that sense, regardless of where one is, flexibility and a dash of perspective are important to one’s mental health. 🙂