Back from Africa

From someone who spent five years abroad and 17 months in Africa:

these are the sentiments you are supposed to experience when you come back from africa. reverse culture shock: economic shock. the change from poverty to wealth, i was told, is harder than the other way around, than adjusting to the difficulties and trials of life in africa. you return only to feel the people you left behind are somehow more real, more deserving of the good things we have than we are, we who so thoughtlessly have them each day and night.

that’s what you feel when you come back from africa. reverse culture shock. do i? no. …

in part it’s been like winters in south dakota, winters where no one wants to be outdoors, out of heating, but at times you must. and at those times no matter how much you bundle up, you are going to get cold. and you are going to curse the cold and wish you were back inside and generally be fairly uncomfortable for a time. and then, at some point, you’ll have been cold for so long that it becomes the normal state of being, and while it’s still deplorable, it’s not really on the front burner of your mind, and you go on doing the rest of whatever it is you need to do outside, still remembering somewhere how nice it will be to go indoors.

and then you do, and that’s what coming back from africa has been like for me. not a culture shock–this is where i grew up, after all, and being from somewhere is a little like riding a bicycle, though if you spend long enough away it’s bound to be a little unfamiliar. you don’t forget your home. what you do forget–or what you maybe never noticed–is how nice it is to be home, like you notice it coming indoors after a half hour or more outside in the snow and wind: how nice it is to take off your coat, your shoes, shiver a little bit as the cold air shakes out of your hair and you get warm again, comfortable.

coming back to america has been a little like that for me.

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