Reverse shock

Hes got shining teeth, he has decorated them, they said in Somali, staring as I sat in the back of the truck.

Jet engines rocketing for hours on end. Flexing my privilege. London UK and a hostel filled with drunken teenagers traveling around the world and partying every night. Most of them are “broke” and that word means too many things. Cold weather.

Hedonism, toasted bagels with the inside cut out and veggie cream cheese and if you don’t like it they make you another and don’t look you in the eye. An amazing roommate who surprised me by picking me up at the airport (thank you Dan!) Taxi drivers and illegal taxi drivers, a war seething just below the surface. Deep down we’re not all that different. But we are.

Dishwashers that “don’t work,” houses that “are dirty.” Bright refrigerators that never go out and hold plastic bags of exactly 100 baby carrots that all look the same and “chicken breasts.” Everything comes in neat little cups that you use and then forget about. Everything is designed to be forgotten.

But I can’t forget, and not because of the constant facebook posts from my new friends marveling at my travels or saying they miss me and our discussions online. Not because of the gigabytes of photos waiting to be uploaded or the terabytes of video waiting to be sorted.

Because I opened this box and 300,000 souls reached their hands out of it and said “help us” and though I sometimes want to close it shut it’s not the type of box that closes.

My Virgin flight ended with a video charity appeal. They wanted our foreign currency for their charity in Kenya. In the middle of New York airspace every screen was showing images of starving, smiling Masai children amid hopeful music. I lost it completely – and then a few minutes later it was over.

Reverse culture shock is a bitch, but I have faith it will sort itself out a bit better.

Sent from my iPhone



2 Comments to “Reverse shock”

  1. jim 20 January 2011 at 11:01 pm #

    Ruined for life. I was really excited to get there too; to have those experiences that the people who seemed to shine the most and live the most authentically had. While it was happening it was great! Feeling alive and stretched. Doing, being, seeing, and loving on a deeper scale than I had before.

    And then there is reentry and disorientation. Cut off from the high of life on the edge brings with it withdraw. Like speaking Spanish to someone that understands only Portuguese, people hear you and can guess at what you are getting at, but don’t understand. And like you are alluding at, so much seems like Kitsch and vanity.

    You are in an awesome spot. But coming home is no joke. To best alleviate reverse culture shock I recommend

    1)Keeping in touch with the people you’ve met – hurrah, hurrah for facebook
    2)Processing with mzungu’s (or foreigners from the sovereign country of the United States of America) you made really great relationships with. Does that mean me? Hmmmmm….
    3)Talking with people who have done different but similar experiences, especially older, wisdom figures
    4)Participate in some kind of creative expression. Creating a speech for a group of people was a great way to force me to process what had happened under a certain lens

  2. Mike 29 January 2011 at 10:56 am #


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