Welcome in America
So I’m home now and have been for about a week. The trip home was easy enough although there was some fog over Madison, so the pilot performed an instrument landing – a dangerous and risky operation. But he pulled it off and I survived. My fiancee and two of my best friends picked me up from the airport and took me home, where the rest of my friends met me with pizza and beverages. I crashed out pretty quick though. I passed through 8 time zones on my trip home from Egypt which means that I was up for an extra 8 hours on the 30th. It was a long day.
I haven’t had much time to reflect on being home though. The last week has been insanely busy. My friends and I have been doing a bunch of gaming and then I took Amber down to Bloomington, Indiana, where she attends graduate school. Now I’m just hanging out in the library while she gets some work done.
I haven’t had much dietary stress – which we were warned about. But then I also haven’t gorged myself like it sounds some of the other kids did (one of them gained 5 pounds in 4 days!!). I have enjoyed good old American cuisine. At a restaurant I went to for lunch they served bacon wrapped in sausage and called it “Wisconsin Sushi.”
I haven’t really experienced reverse culture shock exactly. I do miss my Egypt friends and its strange to think that some of these people who I saw every day and got pretty close to aren’t going to be there anymore when I go to class. Its a little odd to wake up in the morning and not see Rob and Trevor at breakfast, or visit with the girls between classes.
I tried to cross the street last night ‘Egypt Style’ but stopped myself when I remembered that the little hand wave will not stop a wall of cars in America the same way it does in Alexandria. I also threw a little rant when I realized that my bottle of water cost me 15 pounds. I think the biggest “culture shock” experience for me has been that people just aren’t as interested in my experiences as I thought they would be. I saw a friend for the first time in four months that I hadn’t spoken to at all while I was abroad and he didn’t ask me a single question. That threw me off a bit. I also have to stop myself from injecting “Egypt this” and “Egypt that” and “this one time in Alex” and the link into conversations because I don’t want to turn in to a one track record. I have to watch my language a bit too. A selection of Arabic expressions that had worked their way in to our vocabulary are essentially meaningless here. My friends don’t understand Arabic and they have no context for these little phrases that give them meaning. I also have to remember that people can understand me again. I had become accustomed to talking about people or making observations about whatever because the likelihood of anyone understanding me was very low. Here I have to remember not to do that.
My mom asked me an interesting question about my culture shock experience in Egypt. I don’t think culture shock is really the right word for it. There were things I had to get used to, like crossing the street or bartering for goods. The way things operate in Egypt are less organized. Even waiting in a line to buy a train ticket is more like a shoving match than an orderly process. But for me it was just a different way of doing things so I just tried to adapt.
For me it wasn’t culture shock so much as a break down. After Sinai and my dysentery I was just done. On the flight home from Sharm I was snippy and ranted all the time about how much Egypt sucks. I skipped every class except one that week. I was just in a black funk and it lasted about two weeks. After that I was really uninterested in school. I was just fed up with the country and was ready to come home. I know other people had similar experiences. I know Josh flipped out on a guy at a restaurant. Lauren and Helen both raged at Egyptians. Everyone has an experience where something random just tipped the scales and they snapped and everyone snapped in different ways.
Its really hard to say how Egypt has changed me or what I’ve gotten out of the experience. I’ve only been home 8 days and I think it will take some time to really internalize everything that’s happened to me.
Attached is a video of some guys fishing in Alexandria. I was going through my videos and I realized that I kinda stopped bothering about the same time it became clear that the internet in Egypt was too slow to support video uploading. So the videos I do have are kinda random. But I’ll try and throw the rest of them up online ASAP.