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Culture Shock In The US

So, arriving back in the US has turned out to be almost as much of a shock as arriving in Kenya. Once you've become accustomed to a certain thing, suddenly reemerging can be quite a change.

Leaving the airport was the first sign of trouble. Most vehicles in Kenya have a governor that prevents them from going more than 80 kmph (48 mph). So, suddenly going 75-80 mph is a little frightening. Besides, I'm used to matatus swerving all over the road, and not only do I have to resist the temptation to do so, but I also expect everyone on the road to suddenly come into my lane.

Sleeping was another issue. I didn't sleep but maybe 2 hours on the plane, so I was up for about 46 hours nearly continuously. Then, after sleeping maybe five hours, I was up at 0530, and I didn't sleep until 1030 the next morning at all--another 30 hour stretch. Fortunately I did fall asleep for six hours before I had to go to work.

Work was interesting. I struggled for awhile just to remember my locker combination, and then my password to get on the hospital computers. Most of what I was expected to do at work fortunately came back pretty quickly, so I had a decent night at work. I didn't have any unexpected surprises, at least. Then again, that could change anytime. Tonight I was floated to another floor--my second night back. I am kind of waiting for the big welcome-back slap. I am also a little curious about getting tested for TB--that will probably be required for me.

Trying my life back on felt a little strange. I'd done my financial planning well, and remarkably I had no outstanding bills waiting for me. Heck, I managed to save some money while away. I didn't have any food, so that had to be remedied. I had about 150 messages in my work email, which of course I ignored my entire trip. I had to check out my work schedule for the next couple of months, and I had four paychecks to look through and count the pennies Duke possibly might be trying to take.

It's just strange in general to be back. It's so quiet, I miss the noise and bustle. It seems so deserted, I keep looking for all the people walking along in the streets, and along the roads. Speaking of roads, I keep wincing, expect massive potholes, but the roads are so smooth. I found myself wondering if I had the mosquito net over me well enough. I dreamed about Kenya today, some strange dream concerning money. Buying food was strange; I kept looking for food that either doesn't exist here or I won't be cooking anyhow, and I had this odd inclination to shop like I was cooking in Kenya.

And the first thing I did upon arriving at my place was to wash all of the clothes I took to Kenya. All of them, even the ones I had washed by hand.  Then I had to go through the giant pile of mail. I guess that's a result of taking seven weeks off from your life.

I expected to miss Kenya, and the first day I didn't. I went out to eat sushi with Jess. She ended up getting food poisoning from that (ironic getting sick here instead of Kenya), and I had to nurse her through the fun. Then yesterday I felt a little sad. Today, though, it's a full-on feeling: I officially miss Kenya. As different as it might sound, I am homesick for a simpler yet more complex place that isn't my home. But that is how Africa gets you. There's nothing simple about that equation: home away from home, strange yet primal and instinctual, and distinctly a dart into your soul. You don't have any choice but to miss Africa.

And miss it I do.


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