Change and culture shock are keys to great beginnings

By Lynn Moncus

Not long ago, a friend and I were talking about culture shock, the idea that confusion can result in a sudden change in environment especially if a person hasn’t been prepared for such a change. This young man had just returned from a country in which he witnessed a totally different lifestyle than the one to which he was accustomed. He asked if I had ever experienced such a shock and was a bit surprised when I began to smile and to say that the first time I had been so exposed to a totally new environment was in 1939 when we moved from the canyons at Ima to the sheriff’s residence in the old courthouse.

Of course, at that age, I had never heard the term, but I certainly ran head on into a state of confusion and anxiety as we left those canyons and began a totally new way of life. The fellow continued to look puzzled, thus I began to explain a few of the changes that caused me to wonder what was happening to my formerly idyllic life. Deep in those canyons, we lived in a dirt-floored half dugout during my earlier years and then added a floor and two rooms fully above ground. That was plenty of change for a child to contend with and was certainly a pleasant existence.

We carried our water from a spring that was about a quarter of a mile from the house at the end of a very rough, steep trail. We had no indoor plumbing and heated the house with wood in the fire place and in the kitchen stove. Our light was provided by coal oil lamps as we had no electricity. Our laundry was done on a rub board in a big wash tub by the spring, and our ironing was done with flat irons heated atop the cook stove. I thought all was just as it should be and was very happy in those surroundings.

Suddenly, my parents uprooted us and moved us into town, a place filled with people and many new things to learn. Mercy! We had indoor plumbing, electricity, a gas stove, a real refrigerator, a washing machine with wringer and agitator, an iron that was attached to the wall, and limited space in which to run and play. I was more than a little frightened of everything around me and had to be trained to avoid having runaways when one thing too many scared me. I seemed to be in more trouble than usual because I was either under foot too much or was outside yelling as I had yelled in those canyons. Heck! I couldn’t even hear an echo, but Mother certainly could hear my voice and would dash out to try to keep me from disturbing that entire side of town and all the employees in the courthouse. I’m not sure I ever recovered completely from those drastic changes, but I decided along the way I might as well get used to life in town and manners that went along with that new way of life.

In the many years since, I have experienced mild shocks as I have traveled in various countries, but those days of confusion had limited effect on my behavior. That first major experience with culture shock left its lasting impression but never erased the love of the land and our pioneer heritage. It made me appreciate that heritage to the hilt and let me know that I could survive drastic changes.