Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I've been home for a few months now. I have started to write about 5 different posts, but I keep getting stuck in the middle or distracted. I heard a lot from people (and remembered myself from my previous abroad experiences) that reintegration was harder than the original culture shock of leaving and entering a new country. Knowing that doesn't really prepare you for it though.

Coming home is hard. When you leave, you expect things to be hard- you are entering a new culture, you are going away from everything and everyone that you have ever known. But when you come home, it is not like that. You would think that it would be easier to come home. You know these people, you know these things, you have lived this life. But things at home are never quite what you expect them to be. By the time I went back to China (after seeing my parents in the Philippines) I was really homesick. A big part of me wanted to just go home with my parents When I was homesick, I had this particular idea of "home" that is obviously idealized and not totally correct. So when you come home, the first thing is that it is not exactly what you were missing for all those months. I was missing something, maybe the idea of "home," but real home is this crazy real place that is always changing and is not always how I remembered it when I was missing it.

Second, when I was gone, things changed. I am at that age when a lot of my friends are getting married and having babies. So all of a sudden, I come home and there are all these couples and babies and people with completely different lives from when I left. I went away and they kept on living. They kept on living without me and now they are used to living without me, so it is sometimes hard to come back into their lives. They have been used to not calling me and me not being around. I have been used to not seeing them and not being around.

Third, I have changed. I'm not used to the fast paced American life anymore and I'm not sure I want to get used to it again. Even though it was really hard for me to get used to, I did eventually learn how to slow down and enjoy life a bit more while I was traveling. I kind of grew to love snuggling up to my fire and my laptop and watching a movie and then going to bed at 9:00. I got used to getting a full 8 hours (or more) of sleep. I am not the same person that left three years ago (yes, I just past my three year anniversary of leaving for Albania, crazy!). I have literally been around the world. I want to talk about all the places I've been and people I've met and things I've done, but I also don't want to talk about it too much. I feel a bit like this guy. My life is now defined by the past three years and I don't want to be boring talking about it all the time, but it is a frame of reference that I now will experience things by. My life is now "Before Peace Corps" and "After Peace Corps" and I now have a lot of stories that start out with "when I was on the train in Russia . . . " or "compared to Albania . . . " I don't know if people really want to hear about it or not. I know that I have heard all of my parent's stories about a gazillion times- I love their stories (and I love them even more now that I have taken the trip) but I don't know if everyone loves them. It is sometimes hard to know when to talk about it and when to just be quiet.

All of this is not even to mention the general weirdness of America. The cereal isle in the grocery store. Driving on the highway. Having a regular job. Don't even get me started on Sam's Club . . . This is the stuff that I thought people were talking about when they said that coming home is harder. And maybe I'll never really get used to grocery stores again, but probably eventually it will feel normal again . . . someday . . .