Now, spring is here, and I actually thought on my drive across town to class, “Wow, it’s beautiful out today”. My allergies are acting up, I get a sun burn whenever I go outside for more than 30 minutes, and I can’t stop talking about dogwood flowers.
Re-acclimating to America/the South/etc has been really difficult. Yes, Togo was “the hardest job I ever loved” (to quote Peace Corps), but America is a whole new thing. I changed considerably throughout my time in Togo, and every day I see a way in which I am different from those around me. What’s hard to grasp about this is that, while in Togo, I knew I was the strange weirdo living in Zafi, but I identified as an American, and when I was around my fellow Americans, I felt understood, loved, and wholly part of the American community. It was freeing to be zany and bizarre in Togo, because I was so different from everyone. In America, it’s not the same feeling. I often feel isolated and deeply miss my friends from my America/Togo community. I’m not on Facebook anymore because I just feel so removed from everything on there. Peace Corps did warn us about this, and did tell us to take the first 3 to 6 months to observe and learn, just as we did in our villages.
So, here is what I’ve learned about America:
· FOOD IS SO GOOD
· Never enough time, never enough money
· Social media presence/ popularity almost (almost) trumps real life relationships
· Deep appreciation for good food and good beer
· Dedication to craft/arts, at least in my generation
· Trader Joe’s is actually just as cheap at Kroger
· Some people dress up to go to the grocery store, some people wear shirt dresses and flip flops to the office
· SENSORY OVERLOAD!!!!!
And here is what I’ve learned about myself in America:
· No tolerance for negativity/self-pitying/complaining without a solution
· Humor is unmatched except with select few people
· Picky about who I want to spend time with
· Still love babies and small children, they just don’t love me that much/ parents don’t want to pass off their infants to the strange woman making faces
· Hyper-aware of gender roles and dynamics, some of which may be intensified by living in the South
I was so terrified that the longer I’m away from Togo and the more acclimated I am to America, the further Togo will be from my heart. The further I’ll be from my experience. The further I’ll be from Paul, Madame, Herve, Emile, Akpenavi, and all my lovely neighbors and baby friends. In reality, it is all still so with me, that I tear up every time I think about them, I talk about it constantly (although people don’t really want to hear it), and I dream about visiting almost every night. It is still really painful to call, to look at photos, or to read people’s blogs, because it unleashes a flood of se manquer that often results in tears.
But, petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid, and I have things going on in my life. I am working full time at “the best restaurant in Knoxville”, where I have actually met two other RPCVs, from Ghana and Senegal, and have found that I can make friends with people who weren’t in Peace Corps. And finally, in bigger news, I will be moving to Denver in the fall to attend the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. In addition to some PC/Togo friends in the city, a friend of mine from Peace Corps and I will be living together, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Hope you all enjoyed this update. I am planning some upcoming posts on gender and American culture, so keep checking back!