300

3 Nov

I’m back in the US, now.  A long break from the blog, for me, though it was invisible thanks to the scheduling feature on WordPress.  I considered leaving with my last post — the three hundredth on this blog!! — and disappearing into the wildness of America.  Which I probably will do.  But the question I know I have had for every returning expat is on my mind:  What is it like to come home?

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Well, for one thing, the view is nice.

The question is too big and freaks me out at the moment, to be honest.  Just like America: too big and freaks me out.  I walked into a local grocery and nearly fainted.  So many options in the aisle (20 kinds of string cheese?  What even IS string cheese??) but nothing I want (WHERE IS ALL THE COCONUT YOGURT?) yet everyone is friendly and chatting to me and if one more stranger is kind and speaks to me for no reason I WILL LOSE MY SHIT.

You’re too much, America.  Everything is fast, is open late, is full of sugar, is full of petroleum, is saturated with color, is shiny bright white teeth, is the latest brand, is single use and thrown away, is too cold, is too hot, is zooming, is choices, is big and wide and too much.  I’ve only been gone three years.  What happened?  To me?

Frankly I could use a cup of tea.

I’m turning off the calculator in my head.  Something worth the number “twenty” is actually going to cost me twenty dollars, instead of some larger calculation.  You’d think this would be handy, but it’s a bit disconcerting.  Everything in the UK seems to cost less, because the currency is stronger.  I wouldn’t blink at paying 3 pounds for some small trinket, but no way am I paying 6 dollars for the same item in the US.  Even thought that’s the same price.  Oh, dear, I really should have paid more attention to math in college …

The roads are beautiful.  Gorgeous.  I want to drive around all day just for the pleasure of smooth asphalt, enormously wide lanes, right-on-red, functioning street lamps at night, and no zebra crossings.

I miss my kitchen composter.  Municipal composting is a great idea.  I miss my high-viz friends at the county recycling centre.  I saw them so regularly, since our town picked up waste just the once every two weeks. I don’t understand throwing everything in to one big bin … and someone else takes it away and sorts it?  That is … that is … crazy.  I spent three years cleaning, sorting, stacking, and properly disposing of my recycling.  I bought products on the basis of whether or not they had too much wasteful packaging.  I recycled everything.  EVERYTHING.  I feel like we’ve produced more trash in a week in the US than we did in two months in the UK.  Living more consciously of waste is going to be an effort.  This country makes it so easy to consume and dispose.  Our 51st state is going to be a giant pile of garbage.

American children become consumers so young.  We went to an amusement park recently and I was astounded at all the designer tracksuits, shirts, hats, and footwear for children.  When I wanted to find running bottoms for my girls when we ran a mud run together in the UK, I was told no one made sports clothes for girls.  (We eventually settled on a very small cut women’s xtra small.  The rampant sexism in UK sports is a topic for another day.)  We walked into Old Navy yesterday and saw approximately seventy million styles of yoga pants, running bottoms, zumba trousers, and dance capris for girls as young as 2.  Choice is good, right?  But … kids become habituated to thinking of themselves as vehicles for marketing.  I don’t know.

Where is that tea.  Also, someone pull up BBC Radio because I miss British voices.  Why is everyone here so perky?  It’s baffling.  I’m exhausted.

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I pulled open my photo archives and picked this one out totally at random. So many scenes to share. Each memory a little prickle on my heart.

I have tried to look through my many unedited photos and dozens of explorations which have never made it to the blog.  I find my eyes are a bit too tender at the moment, to look at Camelot.  And it would feel strange to write about the experience of being in a place when I’m not there.  It’s all memory, now.  So, I make no promises about what will show up next.  Occasional photo posts as I find something worth sharing?  Random thoughts about repatriation, as I slowly crawl out of my bunker?  In the UK my mind tended towards knights, but here I think I’ll quote a pirate — “Good night, Crumpets in Camelot … I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”

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Oh, and PS – I saw this in that local grocery I mentioned, and a reserved and silent tear leaked quietly out the side of one eye. Hail Britannia. 

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6 Responses to “300”

  1. Living Life as an Expat Parent November 3, 2014 at 9:55 am #

    I feel for you. Reverse culture shock! It’s all so confusing, isn’t it? And where so much of someone’s identity is tied to their culture (whether they realize it or not) when you live abroad you realize that perhaps one of the most deeply entrenched bits of your identity is actually fluid. You change and you can’t be the same but that’s no bad thing.

    Time. Time and prioritizing what you most want to “keep” in your heart and habits from British culture.

    Oh and a reminder that it is very dark, very early here now might help, too. 😉 xoxo

    • Monique November 13, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      Ahh, you put it so gracefully! Reverse culture shock is just … like standing on your head and trying to walk. Why is everyone else moving around like normal, while I’m falling and flipping and flailing around? 🙂 Too right about the darkness, it’s true if we were back in our UK home I’d be spending an hour every morning with my much-used happy lamp. xo

  2. Daily Presents/Cadigan Creative November 3, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    Wow – was it three years already?? That went quick (at least for me…which means I am 42 now, since I last saw you at my 39th birthday…ack.)

    I remember spending a semester in Florence at age 20 and coming back completely depressed at how plastic and temporary everything is here as compared to the bridges and buildings there that have stood since the 13th century, surviving two world wars in the last century alone. I love this post and your descriptions of our country. I hope you will not kill Crumpets in Camelot, or at least that you will replace it with an appropriately titled version of your next chapter. xoxo

    • Monique November 13, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

      We drove through Arizona recently, and had to laugh — the state of Arizona is younger than our friend’s house in the UK. lol! I love that we in the US have a new, muscular, vibrant, unabashed country … but yeah, I love the timelessness of a village in the Cotswold. Three years pass in a blink.

  3. thebookgator November 10, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Congrats on the 300th post. Returnings are hard; it seems like nothing and everything has changed, when of course, it is mostly ourselves.
    Thank you for your reflections on consumerism; it is not said enough here, in America.
    I hope that you don’t disappear into America and instead continue your blogging from the beach…

    • Monique November 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      No promises! I’m finding the transition very peculiar, and my mind is a tiltawhirl. Yoga beach therapy, stat …

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