We’ve been back home almost six weeks now, just long enough for me to begin making a few preliminary, perhaps superficial, and definitely random observations about life in America again. It’s still way too early, and there’s much more processing that’s gonna have to take place, for me to disclose any deep thoughts (Jack Handey anyone? Never mind). Hopefully this will provide at least a sliver of insight into our transition and maybe even a moment of humor into your day. Maybe some of you will even reassure me that I’m not crazy. I admit that these musings range from routine to somewhat interesting to downright quirky, but for what it’s worth, here they are (in no particular order):
1. I don’t mean for this to sound trivial, but I could liken the transition so far to watching TV and switching from one show to another. There doesn’t seem to be any gradual entry into the culture and it’s activities, but rather just a switch of the channel. The blink of an eye and I’m engaged in something else. A better example might be feeling like an actor in a play who steps off stage for just a moment while the crew changes the props, only seconds later to step right onto a totally new set. An entirely different scene, but the play keeps moving right along. Perhaps that’s because the world we’ve re-entered is the one I’ve known so well my whole life, or perhaps it’s because I simply haven’t been able to pause long enough to reflect on the road behind me.
2. I can’t believe I had completely forgotten about this phenomenon of “multi-tasking.” Really. In Kenya, such a concept would seem about as absurd as missing chai time. You mean I can’t just do one thing and then move onto the next? Is this the power or the pain of progress?
3. Why do the houses here have so many light switches and electrical outlets?
4. School for the kids is complex. On-line tutorials, textbooks, and homework assignments. Teachers and students emailing one another with questions. Computers in class for note-taking. Automated text message reminders about school meetings. And did I mention that my kids aren’t even in high school yet!
5. These bathrooms are so incredibly clean! Are people doing surgery in here or something?
6. Why are the text messages my wife sends to me going to my daughter’s iPod? And why am I getting text messages from my daughter’s friend about pet hamsters?
7. Are you sure there are 24 hours each day in America? Didn’t Einstein say something about time changing as you approach the speed of light?
8. Am I supposed to get one of those electric cars? What happens if I do and my house gets hit by lightening? Hopefully not what happened to my computer that once.
9. 2.5 hour phone call just to setup our home phone/internet service. No joke. But at least the man in customer support told me I could talk through speaker phone if I wanted to.
10. Why does it cost me almost three dollars per minute to call Kenya from the US, but it only cost me about four cents per minute to call the US when I was in Kenya?
11. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my cell phone and I were going to be spending a lot of time together. I’m pretty sure I received more text messages and phone calls in one week here than I did in 6 months in Kenya. Please don’t let it become “my precious” (sorry, Lord of the Rings reference).
12. I recently had my first McDonald’s breakfast in nearly two years when I took Julia and Mayson to school the other day. We ordered the “Big Breakfast with Hotcakes.” I don’t mean one for each of us, I mean the three of us split one order … and were full. Does one person really eat this much food at one time, and more importantly, why?
13. On another food note, our family resumed its prior tradition of eating at the Waffle House on Christmas Eve, after our church service. While there, I ran into a friend I had not seen since our return who remarked, “Wow, you’ve only been home three days and you already wanted to test your system!” Yes. Yes I did. And it was worth every bite.
14. I have an urge to make the following bumper sticker for my car: “CAUTION: seemingly inexplicable complexities ahead.”
15. I brought a lifetime supply of Chap-stick to Kenya and never used it. Now that I’m back in the States I keep one in every room and two or three in my pockets.
16. Is it poor etiquette if I only reply to the person who sent me the email and not the ten other people who are cc’d that I’ve never heard of?
17. I think I’ve put on ten pound since our return. I’m trying to convince myself it’s because I needed to.
18. Favorite meal during my first week back? Believe it or not, ham and cheese sandwich with mustard and mayonnaise. Why? Because in Kenya we had no sandwich meat. Try not eating a good old fashioned ham or turkey sandwich for a few weeks and you’ll see what I mean. Little secret: Subway (the restaurant, not the mode of transportation) was started in Nairobi while we were in Kenya, so, ok, I did have two traditional sandwiches while I was in Kenya.
19. Favorite dessert since our return? No-brainer. Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
20. Given my previous comments, should I be surprised that it seems like every other commercial on the radio has something to do with weight loss? Or needing a lawyer for something.
21. My youngest daughter asked why the water in the toilets here is so clean and whether we can drink it.
22. Trash on Monday and Friday, yard debris on Wednesday, recycling on Thursday. No, wait, recycling on Monday, trash on Tuesday. “Honey, where’s my smartphone? There must be some kind of app for this.”
23. Does anyone have a jacket, gloves and a scarf that I can borrow? (Don’t drop anything off, I’m just saying I’m a lot colder these days)
24. The roads here are so smooth and the driving so mundane that I almost want to take a nap every time I get behind the wheel. Could someone at least put some livestock in the roads just to keep it interesting?
25. Visual aid required below – my first trip to an American grocery store. Ok … breath deep … don’t panic (dessert aisle in case you can’t tell).