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An Expat Comes Home

For the time being we are back in the U.S. How did we get here? Well… by plane.  But I’m assuming that since we haven’t been in close contact with everyone on this list, some may be curious about why we’re not gallivanting to a new developing country after our four years in Senegal, and what we’ll be doing over the next few years. Here’s the recap: After 11 years living abroad in Egypt, Cambodia, and Senegal, Ronit and I wanted to take a little time to live in the US - mainly with the goal of living closer to friends and family. We’ve missed important life events; we’ve not kept in touch as much as we’d like; our kids have grown up with American passports, but don’t really know what it’s like to live in the US (for that matter, nor do I). We’re hoping to remedy all of that.

On our way back to ‘Murica, we stopped in Budapest to visit our dear friends Josh and Amanda. They were wonderful hosts and Ronit quickly fell in love with old Europe. The city is stunningly beautiful, and though it has been 19 years since I’ve visited, the charm took us in. We did some delicious wine tasting, witnessed a brilliant sunset over the castle, and managed a mini ruin-pub pub crawl.

 

On the return flight, we stopped in Frankfurt before connecting to LAX.  Roaming through the airport, it dawned on me that this would be the last time for a long while that I would be in a European airport. Nay, the last time I’d be in Europe for a long time.  I got this nostalgia, like perhaps my time traveling had come to an end.  Being abroad for over a decade, it felt like it might never end. But now that it has, I thought of all the things we didn’t do, places we didn’t visit, souvenirs we didn’t buy…. And I’m walking past airport shops thinking, “Do I need these German sausages? What about these magnets or bottle openers?  Should I buy this beer stein that says ‘Frankfurt’ on it?”  Then I flipped the vessel over and saw the 83 Euro price tag… I didn’t need it that badly.  Besides, we didn’t even stay in Frankfurt.  I hustled back to my gate to catch the flight. 

I looked around and saw all of these Europeans casually meandering through the airport, and then I saw the Americans waiting to board our flight.  Do I belong in either group?

But of course I do.  I’ve always identified as American, and always had more in common with my friends back home than I did with local nations who were my neighbors.  Shai and Micah are clearly Third Culture Kids, who wear “American” outfits for the Parade of Nations at the international school, but don’t quite know how to answer the simple question, “Where are you from?”

And of course we will travel again. How can we not? But until then, we’re trying to get used to life in the U.S.  There are major adjustments I’ll need to make in my lifestyle.  Most are a 1st world problems (I have to do my own laundry?).  But the minor changes are really throwing me for a loop. Like waking up and having The Skimm (click that link to make your life easier) in my inbox… it arrived at noon in GMT.  Or making dinner reservations, which is mostly not necessary in West Africa.  But that largest minor adjustment has to be the overwhelming choices that present themselves in EVERYTHING in the US.  This is not just the post-Peace Corps cereal-aisle freakout, but the multitude of options for restaurants, cell phone plans, entertainment for the kids, consumable media content… it is daunting to someone who isn’t used to that level of choice.  Most of the time I just freeze up and either take so long to decide that it is too late, or try to consume everything all at once.  The nice part is, we’re here for a matter of years (if not longer), so I’ve got time to try everything on the menu without rushing.

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