Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Retrospective: On Repatriating

We returned to the Homeland three weeks ago today. We were only gone for 10 months but those months were packed with Large Life Events, let alone the challenges of learning to navigate a new country and culture. I prepped myself for our return to our old community by reminding myself that it wouldn’t be the same as when we left.

It feels exactly the same. Down to the same songs playing on the radio.

I feel a little like a time traveler who had spent a year away on a crazy adventure, returning to the day after she left and is shocked to find things haven’t changed as much as she has changed.

Don’t get me wrong. There is something profoundly comfortable in the familiarity of coming home. After a year of feeling mildly off balance and somewhat self-conscious every time I stepped onto the Copenhagen streets, it’s amazing being able to read a menu with ease and not have to start every conversation with an apology for only speaking English.

But I’m also been walloped over the head by certain aspects of America that never really noticed before. Like we drive everywhere. And I get that we’re a vast, VAST country that had never had the need to consider space issues – there is little stopping us from continuing to build out. But while we’re at it, can’t we put in a few sidewalks? While in Copenhagen I got in the habit of walking and I since arriving home I get the itch to take a long walk each day. This weekend I was out doing some shopping at one of our sprawling American strip malls and since I had some time to kill I decided to save a little of my $3.93 per gallon gas and walk across the better part of Hamburg to another store. That’s when I realized there were no sidewalks or cross walks. To be fair, this particular location is the most poorly conceived strip mall ever. I will never forget getting stuck in that parking lot for 45 long minutes one December weekend, slowly feeling the Christmas spirit ooze out of me. But still.

In setting myself up to expect everything to be different I believe that I somehow expected that “America” a nation/culture/people at large would have changed as much as I have over this past year. As if it somehow would have taken steps to put in significant bike lanes and produce a truly affordable hybrid SUV. That it would have given up Coke and chips and ice cream because it’s too expensive to buy, and hang it’s laundry outside because it was just ridiculous to pay $4 to dry one load too.

We’re home. It’s really, really great. But it feels profoundly different. And the same.

1 comment:

tanya@motherwearblog said...

Welcome back!

I remember that feeling, after coming back from living abroad, too. It really does feel like being a time traveler.