So pulang, is what we have done. We finally made it to our own home here in our "Mother Land." We've recently passed the 8 week mark and the jet lag is gone, but the reverse culture shock is still hanging on. As we try to sort out how to begin again in our own country and re-embrace our home country's culture, there are odd moments that occur.
I have tried and tried to think of what to say to wrap up this blog. Part of me is having a hard time letting it go. In the beginning, it was how I hung on when I was plunged in to such a massive change in my life. Part of me feels that I should be able to write something so deep and so profound to do this experience justice that I will make a really meaningful statement for myself and to anyone reading this. Those words are still not coming to me. It isn't for lack of want, it is just it's hard to sum up something that is such a personal experience in a way that makes sense of it all.
In some ways, our homecoming is kind of like having to re-learn something that you once knew how to do. You know how to do it, but you feel very rusty and awkward trying to do it. The TV shows are different, the grocery stores are different, the neighborhoods are different, the way people interact with one another is different. All of these things, and so much more, are different than what you have had to learn to do over the last 4.5 years. You almost don't realize that you have changed during this time and how you are just slightly out-of-step with your fellow citizens. It becomes painfully obvious when you try to jump right back in. It is odd to feel like you are the outsider, again. It makes for days of feeling a bit lost and conflicted.
The good part is that while this is uncomfortable, we knew this was going to happen. And so we can keep reassuring ourselves about the weird feelings that arise.
It feels ridiculous when you go to a grocery store and can't buy large quantities of things because you have been trained not to do that due to lack of storage space, a housekeeper who wanted to cook everything you brought home even when you didn't ask her to, and going to the grocery was one normal thing that you could do. You feel like someone's grandmother, even though I am at the age where I could be, driving so much slower than you did when you left 4.5 years ago because you are not used to driving a lot and you are used to traveling at a snails pace a good portion of the time due to traffic. It also feels silly that you walk out of your house and wonder where everyone is. I can walk a mile and a half and maybe see one or two people and 10 or 15 cars. For our 4.5 years of expat training, about the only time you didn't see people or cars was when you were in the shower.
However, I am clinging to the things that I learned that I think are really important. It is such an asset to know a foreign language. I plan to take Spanish lessons as that is what I hear a lot in Texas. I talk to strangers much more frequently. I look store clerks, waitstaff, and other service folks in the eye and say hello and thank you and really mean it. It seems to have the same effect, the majority of the time, that it did when I was living in a foreign land on the people who work at jobs that most don't value. There are all kinds of friendships and relationships. The people who value you are the ones to be valued and one should not settle for less.
Are there things I miss? You bet! There were such unique experiences to be had and such an assortment of friends from so many different places all bringing their own style and brand of "being" to the table. I miss the easy smiles that would come to faces of almost anyone you encountered during the day. I miss my Scoopy named Daisy. I feel really blessed to have had the opportunity to experience something that has made such an impression on my life.
Are there things I don't miss? You bet! The traffic, sanitation issues, poverty, corruption, poor health care, and the constant feeling of not really being able to relax fully. Even though these things were part of what made me grow and change, I don't miss them.
Are there things I am so glad to return to? You bet your bottom dollar! The simple joy of being able to put your toothbrush under the water coming from your faucet is such a pleasure. Being about to cook without quite so much "assistance." Getting in my car and driving myself (slowly perhaps) to a destination and not having to tell anyone where I want to go. Being able to call my son, family and friends without having to figure out what time it is there versus what time it is here or having to get up at stupid o'clock to deal with someone about a question or problem that needs to be addressed. It's good to be home.
Since I can't come up with anything prophetic to end this accounting of my integration in to foreign life and the transformation that ensued, I will use the lyrics of a song that in a lighthearted way describes the jumble of feelings that remain. Thanks for sharing the ride with me. For those of you who commented on my posts, you don't know how much I appreciated knowing there was someone out there reading what I wrote and making me feel connected to a world that I left behind.
"Oh, Yesterday's over my shoulder
So I can't look back for too long
There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can't go wrong
With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of the islands and all of the highlands
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane"
Jimmy Buffett - Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes