Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Going Home

It's always a sad moment when you realize that the only thing you and old friends have in common is your past. All you have to talk about is memories.

I was glad to find out that was generally not the case with friends in Gainesville. Of course there was reminiscing, and laughter about old jokes, but we also still had lots to talk about: sharing new interests, books, recipes, and resources. 

I lived in Gainesville for a greater portion of my time in Florida than in Vero Beach, and so going there feels like going home

I made a list of all my favorite restaurants and things to do and was excited to go back. (A friend in Chiang Mai warned me about doing this too much - "you can't go home" he said, "nothing ever tastes the same").

I realized, however (with the help of 55 degree weather and never-ending rain), that most of the things I like to do in Gainesville require sunshine to actually be enjoyable, and so I spent much of my time in a great new coffeeshop, Volta

While part of me objected ("Ali, I can't believe you came all the way to Gainesville and you're not eating/doing/seeing/going to _______!!!") part of me knew that:

a) This is what I needed:

I did a whole lot of nothing, just reading articles and writing e-mails and journaling, but it gave my mind a chance to catch up with my body and I left Gainesville with a lot more clarity and a lot less culture shock than I had had in Vero.

b) My Chiang Mai friend was right:

If I tried to force my old experiences, they wouldn't have been the same, because it's not really the thing you do or the taste of the food, it's the people you're with and the circumstances under which you experience them that make them that good. 

I allowed myself to have a new, organic experience and enjoyed myself all the more for it. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Culture Shock - with Odd Timing

My first week back was totally fine. I did all sorts of fun things, enjoyed myself and even though that maybe... miraculously... I had evaded culture shock?

Well, not quite. Week 2 (pretty much to the day), I started to feel quite miserable, out of sorts and out of place. All the normal things I do to make myself happy when I'm at home (yoga, writing, reading, cooking, eating, watching movies, listening to music) weren't working.  I still felt a vague restlessness and underlying anxiety. I didn't know what I wanted - just not this. 

I finally went to beach for some quiet time - no books, no music, no other people.

I walked, I ran, I did yoga, I swam in the ocean and the pool, did handstands, and sat on the beach... and I finally started to feel okay.

Nothing like the vastness of the ocean to make your problems seem small

I started to feel like I was at home - at least in myself if not my surroundings. 

A little Perspective:

I decided looking at the ocean, that I needed some perspective on things. Two ways I know how to do that are:
1) Get outside
2) Go to Wal-mart (let me explain)

When I go to Wal-mart, I invariably see many of the things I hate about this culture: overweight, unhappy looking people (often being mean/rude to their spouse/kids) all sorts of junk you don't need, and obnoxious leering men/boys. 

By going to Wal-mart, I am reminded to be grateful for all that I have (I don't have to work there, or shop there) all that I am (not those fat ladies smacking their kids around while they load cheez-its into the cart) and all the wonderful people I have in my life .
(If I'm really lucky, I even remember to have compassion for people who do shop there!)

Getting outside always works to make me feel better about life, so I went to a nearby state park with marshes and prairies, and was joined by gators, birds, foxes, raccoons, deer and bunnies. 

this little guy was prancing along until he saw me and got low!

Not Quite There Yet:

While it's getting better, it's not over yet

This morning I pulled out of the driveway and saw someone in the oncoming lane! I said out loud to myself "What the fuck is he doing?!" and my automatic reaction was to get further to the left of him - but there was no more road over there... 

I then realized that everyone else coming towards me was in that lane too, and swerved back over to the right...

After 2 weeks of safe driving, I thought this was odd timing, but I guess culture shock affects us in unpredictable ways.

Oh well, coming back - slowly but surely!