Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Physical Side of Culture Shock

It's funny, this moving abroad thing. It comes with all the things you'd expect, like culture shock and learning a foreign language and just finding your way around a new city, but one of the things I think some people tend to forget about is the physical adaptations you go through in a new place.

For example, when you move to a foreign country, your body is introduced to a whole new world of germs. We were fairly illness-free for our first few months here, probably because Jack wasn't in school, but now I can't seem to get healthy. I've had cold after cold. Even John, who's usually very healthy, caught the recent cold that wiped out our whole family. Jack got scarlet fever, which I didn't know still existed (one tends to think of Little Women and The Velveteen Rabbit, back when scarlet fever was a life-threatening illness), and Will and I have both been sick for a month straight. The same thing happened in Russia, so I know this isn't just Lima. But man am I ready to get healthy again!

My skin also had to adapt to a completely different climate here, which meant changing around all the skin products I usually rely on. Even my hair had to get used to new weather, and new water, and of course a new hair stylist.

And then there's the food. I remember my first week here, three different people all told me to prepare myself for the weight gain. The Lima Fifteen, or something. Now don't get me wrong - Peruvian food is great. But in both Russia and Peru, I've lost weight upon arrival. I'm a creature of habit, and finding replacements for the products I eat almost daily (yogurt, bread, the frozen meals at Trader Joe's I sorely miss) takes time. It's been six months and I still haven't found a bread I like. That's not Peru's fault - the selection here is pretty amazing, especially compared to Russia. But most days when I open the fridge, I take a look at the food we have and end up closing it again. I've never been one to skip meals, but here I probably eat two meals a day on average. It's a terrible habit I'm vowing to break in the new year.

A rare workout - carrying Will up a massive hill in Cuzco.

My exercise routine has changed, too. When we moved to Russia in 2012, I worked out five days a week. Most days it was just running on the treadmill and the occasional weight lifting session, but something happened when I got pregnant with Will. I can't exercise while I'm pregnant because of all the contractions I have, and even though I got back into running and trained for a 10-miler after he was born, I fell right back into my lazy ways when we got here. Once I got over my fear of running alone here, I started running a few days a week in the nearby park. But the lack of energy caused by not eating, and all that sickness, has completely derailed me. I'm a sloth. Again, I'm hoping to change all that in the new year. I know John will hold me to it, at least.

So there you have it. A new country, a whole new set of physical changes that I for one never anticipated. If we move anywhere with excellent pastries next, I could be in a lot of trouble.