Understandably, when people find out about what I've been doing for the last 10 months I inevitably get one of two questions: (1) "How was that?" or (2) "How does it feel to be back?" Perhaps one day I'll have an answer for the former (for now it eludes me), but I do have some thoughts on the later.
When I was getting ready to come back to the states a friend (who has spent a significant amount of time living abroad) told me that the adjustment to "home" is often harder than the adjustment to "away." This made sense to me; coming home could be like returning as a stranger to a familiar place without the sense of belonging that I once had. So, when I set foot off the plane I was prepared for a weird transition period, a time of longing for Africa- for the grit and life of it- and of distrust or disgust or uneasiness about America.
I thought that I would stand aghast at the size of our cars and our waistlines, be stupified by all the choices for everything from toothpaste to apples, and be disgusted by all the big box-stores and our waste. But this hasn't happened. Land Cruisers are the norm in Arusha, so big cars in America just look nicer, not necessarily bigger and there are large African Mamas and skinny people in America. Rather than having to choose between two equally unappealing (in my opinion) brands of toothpaste in Arusha, I know that I can get my Tom's of Maine in any grocery store, so no choice is even necessary. And just yesterday I walked into Babies 'R Us, went straight to the "feeding" section, selected a set of toddler forks and spoons, paid, and, when I got home, recycled the plastic packaging. Ahhhh, recycling.
This is not to say that I don't miss aspects of my life in Arusha. Mostly, though, the longing is for the people I left behind. I miss Tim. I miss Tanzania Trio and The Browns. I miss lunch dates at Picasso and the feeling that I've really accomplished something just by making it through the day. I do miss that. Things are easy here- very easy- and for most people that means that they freak out about the smallest (insignificant?) things and I find that hard to deal with.
I do feel like my experience in Tanzania is somehow going to slip away from me; I'm not completely sure (yet) how I've changed as a result of my time there, and that leaves the experience feeling illusory, fleeting, surreal. With that said, the short answer to the question "How does it feel to be back?" is "Comfortable. Right. Natural." And that's a pretty good feeling.