Monday, July 13, 2009

What I Remember

This afternoon I gave the last final exam of the year. I'm not completely done, however, because next Tuesday I need to go to the university to help give a placement test for next year. But for all intents and purposes, I'm finished with my teaching experience at the University of Cuenca, and in Ecuador. I'm happy, but it's still a bit surreal to be walking from the university knowing that it's probably the second to last time I'll be doing so.

My mind has been busily trying to think of where I could travel to this week, and I've been going back and forth from the jungle, the coast, Colombia, and now Peru. I still can't make up my mind, but I think if I go anywhere I'll go to Mancora, Peru for a couple of days. It's 8 hours away from Cuenca, with a stop at the border to change buses and stamp the old passport. Otherwise, I've been thinking about what my return to the United States will be like.

Knowing that my days are numbered, I've been thinking about what I remember about home. Though I've been gone 10 1/2 months, my memory is still vivid. It's July now, so I'm sure it's plenty hot and the grass is probably hard and turning to hay under the baking sun. Though I know how I left my room, I'm sure my mom has added piles of junk all over the place that I'll inevitably throw out the door as soon as I get home. This happened to me every time I came home from college. She always expects that I'll want a bunch of free pens that she got from work.

I know that the family got a new TV, and has been putting in a new rug in the living room, so I will be walking into a place that wasn't what it was before. And I guess that's the definition of reverse culture shock. I'm almost scared in a way to be going home. I'm not sure how I'll be affected, though I'm hopeful that since it's only 3 weeks, I won't get too comfortable. After living in Spain for 5 months I didn't feel reverse culture shock, just boredom from returning to a suburb after living in a European city. I couldn't even drink legally for a couple of months after hanging out in bars all over the continent.

But I've been here almost a year now, and I know things will be different. I know that prices will just blow my mind. I look at a menu and if a meal is $2.50 I laugh at how expensive it is. A liter beer over $1.50 is a rip off. Attitudes towards certain conduct will also be difficult to adjust to. If we don't feel like drinking in bar, we can save money by just drinking in the street. But that will never happen back home. That thought actually came to me today when I realized I wouldn't be able to afford drinking in Boston. I thought, "Oh well I'll just drink in the street...ah crap, I can't do that in Boston. Damn Puritans." My friend told me one night he dropped almost $100 altogether on a night out in Boston. I'm not even going to explain how insane that sounds to me.

In order to get better adjusted here, I emptied my mind of all things American, or in theory as much as I could. I didn't think of home that much to avoid homesickness, and I continued as if this was my life. But now I need to switch back, for a short time anyway. And I'm just not sure if I can do that. I remember how uncomfortable I felt at parties when I'd just gotten back from Spain, not relating to what people were talking about and feeling like I knew something they didn't know. I can almost guarantee I'll feel that way again.

My only saving point is that I'm going to be home for such a short period of time that it will be just enough time to be refreshing, catching up with friends and family. And just around the time I'm getting bored and antsy, it will be time to move on again. And I can be sure of this, after 11 months of living in the mountains, going from the extremes of hot afternoons to freezing nights, always wearing pants and having a jacket on hand, it will be such a relief to just be hot and sweat. I don't even care about air conditioning, at least now. I want to wear shorts and a t-shirt, oh man what a rush that will be. 20 days out.

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