Aug 29, 2011

What's it like being home?

After more than a week home, my thoughts are crystallizing somewhat, and I've got a few semi-coherent observations, in no particular order.

People are friendly.  This could be a result of hanging out in rural Colorado, but personally I don't believe it.  Even the immigration officer in Los Angeles was nice: "Welcome home!"  General human interactions are, on the whole, a lot more pleasant than in South Africa.

Colorado is beautiful.  After the bland, washed-out colors of my village, the vibrant greens, spectacular clouds, and rugged topography is like being clubbed in the retinas.  Quite the place to live.

Culture shock is powerful.  I'm feeling it mostly in little strong bursts.  I'm very glad to be spending at least a little while here in the old family abode where things haven't changed very much and I know lots of people; I reckon it will get worse again when I move to the city.  The worst episode so far was on the plane coming back, where I had a sixteen-hour leg from Dubai to Los Angeles.  The way the geography works out, you end up flying over the top, right past the North Pole.  To be sitting in a marvel of modern engineering, watching new movie releases on a little screen, with beautiful flight attendants waiting on me hand and foot, while we fly past the North Pole, made for a feeling of stupendous dislocation.  It was extremely hard to believe the little instant GPS readout you could access on the screen.

Talking about Peace Corps is hard.  The little Peace Corps handbook told us we'd have a nearly uncontrollable desire to recapitulate the experience, but on the contrary, I find that it's difficult to talk about my experience in a meaningful way.  I'd rather talk about the news and so forth, unless people have specific questions.  "What did you eat?" I can answer, while "What did you do in Africa?" gets a shrug.

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