Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back to Normal

Normal being, of course, a vague and relative term.

In this case I mean I'm back to Hendrix and a life filled with physics problems. Which is pretty normal for me. What was not normal was a semester studying only a language. It was a nice break-- one I might regret senior year when I have to take Quantum Mech and Thermal at the same time to catch up for my time off. 

I haven't written a blog post in forever. After leaving France I didn't know what to post-- I haven't had time for crafts, or cooking really, except for the communal meals I help cook in the house I live in. I thought about really putting in some effort and writing a text only blog post that rather than show off some pictures of what I've been up to, grapples with some issue that I'm interested in. 

And then I thought about a) my lack of writing skills ((my friends reading this are primary English majors and all talented writers)) b) my lack of free time ((at any given moment I should be doing something, case in point, I'm starting this post while taking a 'little' break from research)) and I just never got around to posting anything at all.

The longer I put off posting, the harder it got to find inspiration to start a new post. Yet here I am!

Coming back to Hendrix has been great. I was warned, many times, about the possibility of reverse culture shock-- all the sudden certain aspects of your home culture that were normal before seem annoying and you miss your time abroad.

The second I stepped onto American soil I was yelled at/reprimanded by customs officials for not doing, by accident, exactly what they wanted me to do. In that moment I hated America and yearned for the normal, non-crazy intensive attitude the rest of the world has towards security at airports. In France I didn't even have to take off my shoes. No one was particular intense about the whole thing-- two seconds into America I was yelled at for not standing in the right place.

Walking through the airport Americans seemed impossibly loud. I heard someone having a very emotional phone call almost yelling argumentatively into their cell phone seemingly not caring that they were in a public space and that I really didn't want to hear about what so-and-so had said about them.

And perhaps it was primarily due to the fact I had just gotten up at 2 am, driven 7ish hours to Paris, and then sat in the same place on a plane for 10 hours, that I was a little lacking of patience and grace as I was faced with my impossibly loud culture.

I meandered through the airport in a generally grumpy mode (traveling does that to you. I feel like I'm 80 but whenever I traveled anywhere in Europe I was absolutely exhausted. Not the best when you have like two days to explore an entire new country) and stopped to purchase some Gatorade. The cashier smiled at me, asking how I was, and if I had a good Christmas-- small talk between strangers that would have never happened in France. I was buying groceries the other day, trying to decide between grape tomatoes and the much more expensive cherry tomatoes. A lady passing by told me that she always used the cheap grape tomatoes instead of the cherry ones, and it didn't make any difference taste wise. Helpful strangers just striking up a conversation-- also a rarity in France, but a normal occurrence in the US. 

I was sitting on a train in France with plenty of time to think when I realized that I really did miss the US. It took four months of being away from my home culture to realize there were a lot of things I liked about America. I like the fact that our culture is characterized by being outgoing. I like baseball, TexMex. I like that you smile at people on the street. ((If you make eye contact with a stranger in France, they will not smile at you. This freaked me out for four months as little old ladies would just stare me down if I accidentally made eye contact. I would then spend a frantic thirty seconds making sure my shirt wasn't too low cut, or that I didn't have like food on my face or anything))

And maybe this is southern American culture but regardless I never had much I particularly liked about America. Living in the culture everyday, all I could do was find its faults-- and believe me, I still realize that they exist. I recently saw a car commercial that bashed the entire European lifestyle (In America you live to work) saying that we as Americans were so much better and achieved so much more than those "people who take off a month in the summer!"

Imagine! Taking off an entire month to be with your family! Taking time off from the office to enjoy life!

How horrendous.

Can you imagine if all jobs allowed this break? This idea that your work does not rule your life, but is simply just a part of it? The commercial bashed those "people who stop by a bakery on the way home". Because obviously they should have stayed at work longer. 

And while that commercial made me want to punch the stupid writer who thought that was somehow an effective way to sell a car, it didn't negate my revelations on the good points of my culture. Even with our superiority complex and the fact that we brought McDonalds onto this Earth. Everyone has their faults.

Suffice to say, it's good to be home. :)

I just realized this entire post consists of nothing but words and my opinions. However, I just got two friends who promised to read it so I will break my normal routine and post it.

Thanks for making it this far!