We’re prepping to be back in the States for a bit. This is always a big deal for us – buying tickets is expensive and I always feel like I’m playing the lottery. Sure, plop down this huge amount of money and just hope that nothing happens to prevent us from getting on that plane (like a traffic jam or worse). Yikes. It’s a big deal for us because our kids love love love to travel. My son was ready to pull out the suitcases two months ago. It’s a big deal for us because we get to see family again after months (or never, in the case of my two new nephew/nieces. How do you make that plural when they aren’t the same? My five new nephces. My kids’ five new cousins. Agh, English.) of not seeing them.
So we think and plan and dream and worry, all at the same time. You would think, being Americans, that it would be all one big high. We’re coming HOME! But what does home mean? I mean, for a traveller. (Not where the heart is. I mean really, specifically, what does home mean?) We have our house and friends and school and work here. We also have some residue of culture shock and language barrier here. Less and less, but it’s always going to be there, that we don’t quite fit in.
The first few years of living here, returning to America meant that this culture shock, language barrier and “alienness” would dissolve and we would be among our own kind, our own people (is this sounding like we’re Martians?) who understood and we understood back. About everything. How to make a line behind the cash register. How to order a sandwich. What to do with your shopping cart. Where to park your car. It was a huge relief. Familiar food. Directions on the cleaning bottle that I could understand. Medicine I knew was safe to give my kids. Relief, relief, relief. And joy. I could make jokes. I could understand jokes. I could catch up on people’s lives. Real chocolate chips.
The last time we were back, though, I found that certain things were a little bit of a culture shock for me in America. I’ve heard of “reverse culture shock” and finally it hit me. Tortillas (which I grew up on) are too sweet. (Actually, everything was. I suddenly could taste the added sugar in everything. Why do tortillas need sugar??) Shopping carts were littered all over the parking lot (you get your “deposit coin” back when you lock it back into the cart area here, so there’s never ever been a stray shopping cart.) Grocery bags were not filled to the brim until they started ripping (a pet peeve of mine here) but wastefully filled with about two items.
So great, I’m not at home anywhere. It has begun- life as a nomad. I might as well buy myself a tent.
I’m a little nervous about what is going to be a shock to me this time around. Is even more of my “home” going to feel strange and alien to me this time around? Will more and more chunks of my previous life fall off with each visit?
I’ve talked to my husband about this. He’s reminded me over and over that our citizenship is in heaven, and the less we feel at home here on earth, the more we yearn for our real, lasting home. Heaven is solid, God is unchanging, and when I get there, I will stay there. Forever. Suitcase and culture shock free.
In the meantime, at least you still speak English, right?