When we were finally done with our stories about Africa we’re ready to look back and see how the African way of life melted into the Estonian way of life.
When there’s somebody talking about cultural shock, then they usually refer to the classical one – you go to a foreign country and suddenly everything’s new and weird.
They talk about the first shock you experience at the very beginning, and about the second one that hits you a few months later when you try to get to know the new culture and the deep differences between you and the culture become apparent and are difficult to get accustomed to. But very rarely, if at all, somebody chooses to talk about the culture shock that hits you the moment you come back to your own country. Spending a weekend in some European capital can’t fully strike you. But when you decide to take a longer trip and do that with new people, when you live in a totally new world for some time, surrounded by new rules and norms, have to cope with new sense of time, new rhythms, new aromas, with a new family and a new name – then the old and familiar Estonia appears to be in your perspective. And if you go home with this new luggage then basically the same process as experienced at the beginning of the trip is restarted – things seem to be weird.
The first couple of weeks, where ever I went, I managed to arrive a couple of hours late. And all of it seemed so natural to me. I’m still trying to get used to the academic quarter of an hour. Hereby I’d like to apologize before my friends, acquaintances and lecturers, because even this academic quarter of an hour is nothing when compared to the African way of life and sense of time.
The second shock arose from the local love for alcohol. Drinking has become a norm and we seem not to be able to count the number of cloying drinks we consume a night. So I decided to cancel my birthday party that should’ve been held right after arriving from Benin. Instead I asked a few friends over and we baked a fantastic cake. We listened to the same CD Chiaka had playd day in day out the whole night.
The third shock, the most fundamental of all, came from the feeling that these two worlds are incompatible. In Africa I was Fifame, which in its incredible speed developed into a separate unity, a separate personality that had something of Terje and something from South-African Frida. But the rapid identity melange changed me the most towards Fifame. Since in Benin I had been as thirsty for life like a young predator, ready to consume everything, ready to change for an experience, ready to live like a Rastafarian and honour fetishes, Fifame formed rather selfishly turning her back to Terje, forgotten in Estonia. Back in Estonia the burden from the uni laid on me with a stamp that wanted to make me a Terje again. Fifame slowly faded in me. But almost every day there was a phone call from Benin and Chiaka’s smooth voice reminded me a faded part of myself: „Fifame…Ca va, Fifame!”
But because of those phone calls it arose more colourfully than ever. Life in Benin had been like a parallel reality that cannot be compatible with the fast life here that appreciates work, rationality and success.
If you like, then in Benin you can freely speak to the spirit of your dead grandfather. No one but you sees him, but it’s real. In Estonia you’d be scoffed at. In Benin they dance nine days in a row at a voodoo ceremony. In Estonia no one would like to spend more than two hours at a concert. In Benin the basis of economy is cocaine, in Estonia it’s the risen retirement age. In Benin they smoke weed to be connected with the god. In Estonia people drink to forget everything for a moment. In Benin everyone is a brother or sister to you. In Estonia people make friend on Facebook. In Benin there’s time but no money. In Estonia time is money, but still there is neither. In Benin they consider trance a sacred state, a climax of a voodoo session. In Estonia every state where your conscious is a bit changed it’s considered a taboo. In Benin every day the electricity disappears for hours and nobody could care less. If there’s a drift in a system in Estonia, everybody panics. Etc.
This is where the shock comes from.