Aug 28, 2010

Visit Home

At the beach in Santa Cruz

Culture Shock
Two words I feared most about my return. Yeah, maybe the return was just a month-long visit but still, it seemed every PCV warned of this evil villain, Culture Shock, a villain who would make me loathe Americaland and all its capitalist and materialistic ideals. I would be disgusted by people who have three cars in their driveway, pay $50 for a shirt and complain because the waiter has taken more than 2 minutes to bring their drinks.
I don’t know, maybe despite my two years in Burkina I’m still one of these capitalist and materialistic people because frankly, I absolutely loved my visit home!

The month of August was wonderful. I spent a few days in a beautiful rental home right along the Russian River where I did nothing but swim, kayak, read and eat perfectly cooked steak.

Kayaking on the Russian River; Always representing Burkina, even from Cali!

I lunched with friends and laughed over margaritas, went to a jazz festival, shopped til I dropped, dressed up in heels and skirts (to feel like a woman again!). I went to the beach, I ran a 10k race. I went to the movies, I ate junk food….ahhh to be an American again!

I went to a spa in Calistoga with my mom and lounged in mineral pools. I had a one-hour massage and let me tell you, while this angel-from-heaven of a woman was tugging and rubbing, massaging and making me groan in ways only a man is supposed to…..not once did I think of Pobe.

Does that make me a bad person? What does that mean? Why was it so easy for me to return?

Of course there were some things….little things that immediately brought me back to the realities of America:

- On the way home from the airport all I could think of was sushi dinner….of course Friday night rush-hour traffic seemed to think I’d waited 2 years…what was another 2 hours.

- My first time back in a grocery store, I just walked slowly up and down the aisles, mouth half open in shock. My mom kept asking “Well what do you want!?” and all I could stumble out was “I….don’t….know!” A bit overwhelming.

- Or the time I started doing all the dinner dishes while my mom and Patrick were outside. Twenty minutes later I’m still sweating and scrubbing everything by hand when my mom walks in, sees me and says “Milie…why don’t you just use the dishwasher?” Oh yes, the dishwasher, a machine invented to wash dishes. Incredible!

While in Calistoga we stopped at a famous winery (the one from the movie Bottle Shock). It was very nice and probably the only time in my life I’ll ever taste $130 wine. But we were surrounded by nothing but yuppies and blond bimbos. You know the kind, the women with perfectly manicured fingernails and those huge perky, plastified bosoms, talking about their recent shopping trip in Paris. It was a Monday afternoon...don't these people work??

Obviously I thought frequently of Burkina and the people of Pobe. One weekend my family helped organize a party/fundraiser where we raised more than $500 for Pobe’s library!

I loved my visit home but to be honest I’m ready and excited to get back. I know that joining the Peace Corps is a once in a lifetime experience that not a lot of people have the courage to do, and I’m doing it. Before joining I was worried about 2 yrs being too long. But being here I’ve realized that nothing has really changed. Things are basically still the same. But I’M not the same. I’ve learned and experienced so much, more than I ever imagined. Recently I’ve heard the word “regret” from so many people, wishing they had done things differently, that they had not been afraid to try new or challenging things.

It made me realize, I have no regrets. My time in Pobe was challenging. At times I hated it, I thought of coming home, wondering why the hell I CHOSE to be there, my latrine became my little private crying room. But if I could go back and change things, change my decisions…. I wouldn’t.

I guess it’s a good thing I’m going back for a 3rd year!