Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Transitioning

It took less than 24 hours in America for me to feel like a complete idiot.

We arrived in California on Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday morning we headed to Target.  Because isn't Target the reason we visit America?

The checker took my items and I swiped my credit card, proud of myself for remembering how to swipe a credit card.

"Oh, that's a chip card," the checker said.  "You need to put it in the bottom of the machine."

I looked frantically for another place to stick my card.  I jammed it into the slot at the bottom of the machine and pulled it out.

"No," the checker persisted.  "You have to leave it in there."

Now I was totally flustered.  I stuck the card back in and accidentally pressed "cancel."

Patiently, the checker (who was by now most certainly questioning my intelligence level), asked me to start over.

As I grabbed my things, I muttered, "So sorry....I've been living overseas for a long time....."

Later that day, we went to the grocery store, and as I expertly stuck my chip card into the machine, signed it, and smiled confidently, I heard imaginary applause in my ears.  I had conquered.

Okay, people.  What else have I missed in the last three years?  Help a girl out here.

I always marvel during these transitions.  It just doesn't seem possible that I can get on a plane for 24 hours and end up on a different planet as a different person in a different dimension.  That's what it feels like.  And not only does my body think it's still in Tanzania (as evidenced by intense jetlag), but my brain can't keep up either.  I can't remember what side of the car to get into.  I can't remember where the bathroom light switch is, since it's supposed to be outside the door--right?.  And if someone turns the lights out, I assume it's a power cut.

My first-week thoughts are always convoluted and strange.  It doesn't take long for me to adapt again to America and everything becomes routine.  But those few days at the beginning are particularly amusing.  So here you go:

The air feels awesome.  I noticed this immediately as we exited the airport.  Awesome, I tell you.  It's like I had been living under a wet blanket for three years, and someone just pulled it off my head.  I have not sweat once since leaving Dar es Salaam.  My children, however, are shivering uncontrollably in the freezing 70 degree cold.  And skin and hair and lips look like we're in the dead of winter in Minnesota.

Costco is still awesome.  Almost as awesome as the air.  And really, just as important, right?

Everything is so quiet.  Like, really, really quiet.  Even when I'm outside with the kids, I keep telling them to keep their voices down, like they are breaking a sacred silence.  Night is so quiet.  No screeching bats and birds and insects.  No wedding party music.  Rarely even any car sounds.  It's eerie.

There are no people to be seen.  I go for a walk with my girls, and we marvel at the lack of life.  No people, anywhere.  Does anyone even live here?  they ask.  If you go into a store, there you see people.  But not on the street.  No food being sold on the street.  No goats on the street.  Where are all the people?  And the goats?  Don't they want to enjoy this amazing air?

Everything is so easy.  I don't have to navigate between languages.  I can read every street sign.  The roads are straight and flat and organized and drivers don't drive on the shoulder.  Gil said with wonder, I'm going to see how many days I can go without using my horn.  All the food in the store is at least half-prepared.  The lawns water themselves.  The garage doors open themselves.  The dishes wash themselves.

Meal times are the most exciting part of the day.  Yes, it's lunch!  I can eat again!  And I just went to Costco!

My children are obsessed with the ice dispenser on their uncle's fridge.  By 10 am every day, that thing has been cleaned out.  However, they are paranoid about tap water and drinking fountains.  Yes, you can drink the water.  Are you sure, Mommy?  Yes, you can drink the water!

I need a sign around my neck, Bear with me; I haven't lived in America for a while. I'm not sure how to handle you, America.  But I sure do love your air.  And Costco.

Johnny with his grandpa and cousin
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