On coming home,
I knew things had changed when I found myself gently caressing the thick, soft napkin I was given with my meal. I automatically refrained from using it and as I was lovingly placing it in my bag, I remembered I am in America. Toilet paper and napkins are everywhere, I didn't have to save it until I really needed it. There would always be more. I was back in the land of more.
Trying to find my way through customs I started out by simply saying, where?, as I pointed at my baggage,then gestured round the room for direction. I was given a quick answer in American English. An answer more detailed than I had remembered possible. I could communicate again. I hadn't even realized how short and simple I had learned to talk with people. It was amazing being able to joke and laugh with the security that searched my bag with great thoroughness. My face burned a hot red as they pulled out dirty socks and underwear and looked in areas that I was not even sure what they would find.
Walking through the airport was a fabulous experience. I blended in, nobody stared at me and I was amazed by the diversity of people in which I saw. I promptly got a REAL, big coffee with REAL cream. The price was astounding even before they added the 10 cent sales tax. Nothing like the lady in front of me who got a sandwich and coffee with a total of $12, my budget for an entire day.
Being able to understand background noise was amusing as well. Until I came to the realization that conversation sounds much more important when you cant understand what is being said. It was all fun and games in the excitement and anticipation of coming home. I was utterly amused by American life, people and what they had to say about..well, life, the world.
I had not even left the airport yet. Jet lag hit hard and fast leaving me confused, tired and overly emotional. I lost grasp of what I wanted and was relying entirely on my friends for support as well as a place to sleep. (thanks Britt) I wanted so bad to move out of my backpack, but was distressed by the fact that there was no where for me to move. Not to mention some of my dearest friends were extremely stressed about SARS, something I had not even thought about. I became fearful that I was seen only as a potential source of death rather than a missed friend.
The hardest part was adjusting to my new eyes. Eyes that saw things with a memory of other worlds. Worlds so different that even the most familiar aspects of my American life seemed a bit foreign. I soon realized that explaining how I felt to even my most patient loved ones was a task. I had been living in a world they could not relate to, and American life was still full on. Everyone has to live.
One of the biggest things I realized is that most of the American "stereo types" are correct. I had been (in my way) defending the U.S. Not what we do to other countries, or even how our systems are run at all, but what is important to the American people. I felt we were unfairly given shit. Once home I saw that people really do talk about suing, buying more, better, newer..everything. Money...a real goal. Many people are overweight and this country really does allow us to not think about the rest of the world. Families live hundreds of miles apart, sometimes hardly communicating. Yet everything is so set here and there is so much, life has a certain comfortableness... the most distressing thing is the falseness about this world. Here, one can forget how many are getting screwed over for the "American dream."
Am I going to slip back into it? My blood runs strong here. The alienated feeling will leave and life will speed up a few notches. I will become so busy that peace of mind will be put on the back burner. No...I think I just need to save a lot of money and head out again. A whole world is out there ready to be explored. My heart beats with the excitement of what is next to come.
Until then, we, you...us, were the ones that make the differences and don't stand the lies that are shoved in our faces. Who do they think we are? We were given great minds, loving spirits, joyful souls, and strong bodies. We matter damn it!
They can try to turn us in to slaves of a screwed up system. We have freedom of speech and some other great American treats. Lets use them. If that is to difficult, well...plan a trip.
I know I am one of the luckiest people in the world. I have all the benefits of being American, yet was raised with world values. Those of us who had parents that did not forget the dream of the sixties and moved back to the earth to grow their children, they did something. They broke the mold.
All I have to do is remember hungry children, spiritually advanced people with no material possessions, the simplest of living conditions and smiling humans, people with dreams of America and a willingness to do anything to have it as well as those who continued to live no matter how full of pain their lives are. Disabilities, I always remember the disabilities. These are the things that inspire, the things that remind me what is important in life. Now back for a month I find joy in my friends and family, beauty in the land, and a thrill in comparing what is. I am still living out of my backpack and I continue to see how I have been newly shaped. Sometimes I feel guilty and ashamed of the idea of falling back into my old carefree, fun life. Then I remember our paths and how we were all given different lessons, I simply must always learn, enjoy, appreciate and be a positive spirit in this world. With that in mind I step forward with great enthusiasm.
"What a long strange trip its been."
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