There was no way to describe how I felt when the plane landed back on American soil in Los Angeles on Sunday. Looking back it all seems like a blur. I woke up in my bedroom the next morning almost confused as to how I wasn’t back in my apartment in Adelaide, as if flying home was all a dream. That’s how the past few days have felt being back on Long Island, dreamlike. It’s as if nothing has changed but at the same everything has. When I first arrived in Australia I remember a similar feeling. When I said goodbye to my friends and family it felt so unreal, as if I would just be seeing them the next day. That’s how it felt when I left Australia, but it a way that’s comforting because I know I’ll see it again one day. Read More »
Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler
It was on my very first day here way back in July when Marta asked the inevitable question: “Is America really going to elect Trump?”
One of the perks of being abroad is being able to temporarily escape the depressing sociopolitical situation in the states- the shootings of unarmed black civilians, Orlando, government deadlock, and of course, this endless presidential election. Obviously I’m able to follow the news back home online, but with classes and travel it’s not as frequent, and so I can be figuratively as well as literally detached from home.
The average Argentine, however, is consistently connected with what is happening in America. You know that saying that the world revolves around America?…it has some truth to it. Nearly half the conversations I’ve had with random Argentines eventually turned to the U.S. presidential election. People aren’t exactly enthralled with Hillary, but they’re horrified that someone like Trump could possibly occupy the Oval Office. How could it be that U.S. politics have become as dysfunctional as Argentine politics have been for nearly a century? For people here, his flamboyant personality and lack of shame reminded them of Carlos Menem, their president during the 90s who partied with celebrities and drove his sports car as the country spiraled into financial catastrophe. Many predicted the end of America as we know it if he gets elected. A woman in the elevator told me “Please vote for Hillary, for all of us who can’t”
For the first debate I wanted to be around other Americans, so I went to Sugar Bar in Palermo where CNN was being shown on a dozen different screens. It was a surreal experience being in the presence of other Americans speaking English, drinking beer, cheering, booing and fliping the finger at the screens. Some people in my program have talked about getting together on Election Day and getting wasted for the occasion. We’ll either be celebrating our country missing a close one, or commemorating the good 240 year run America had.
I was the strange kid in the study abroad group simultaneously completing an American internship.
I worked at nights when I had finished (…maybe…) my homework and was in no danger of missing out on cultural experiences or, more importantly, time with my host family.
Not anymore. As of Thursday, I’ve given my two-week notice.
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Wow. Sitting there, at the airport in Cairo, the surreal moment suddenly became very real: I was finally going home. I realized that the next day I would not wake up in my apartment in Alexandria. I would not have to haggle with the taxi driver to take me to school. I could no longer not walk down to Tibawy and order foul and falafel or shwarma sourie freckh. I would no longer work out with my friends at the Tamarin Center. I would no longer be able to speak Arabic in the streets, see it on t.v., listen to it on the radio. So many things I would never be able to experience again. So many things that were about to change.
These last four months have been a whirlwind of excitement, adventure, independence and new experiences. I have made life-long friends and created memories I will always treasure. But there have been hard times too. I have doubted my strength on numerous occasions. I have wanted to quit, to go home. I have failed, made mistakes, and gone the wrong way. To describe my time in Egypt in one simple paragraph would be impossible, yet I suppose the main idea would be that I have never felt more alive than when I was in Egypt. For good or for bad. I have grown-up emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I have learned so much about Egypt, the Middle East, and the world. More than that I have learned about America. I have heard the way others view my homeland, despite how much it stung to listen. Being in Egypt was so eye-opening, such a test of my character while at times it was also like a giant vacation – 4 days of classes/ week, no NROTC to wake up for a 5:30am, no meetings to attend, no philanthropy events to host. I have never been more thrilled, more happy, more embarrassed, or scared than when I was in Egypt. I truly lived my time there to the fullest. I saw everything, ate (almost) everything. Everyday was a new experience, a new chance to explore and to learn. I was always on my toes or on the edge of my seat just waiting for the next big adventure.
So now, sitting on my porch at home in a sunny New Hampshire, contemplating what this trip has meant to me, my mind is filled with wonderful memories. I remember the trips I took, the friends I made, the passion I felt towards pursuing a greater goal. But it all feels sort of like a dream. All I have now, besides my journal, a few souvenirs, and some photos, is memories. What’s worse is that no one around me experienced it. When I regal the stories of climbing Mt. Sinai or sleeping in the desert I start to question if they actually happened the way I describe it. Soon the memories will fade and then what will Egypt mean to me? My only fear is losing the passion and the fire that events in Egypt have instilled in me. I want to change the world. I want to make a difference. When I was in Egypt I realized how one person could truly make all the difference. Being back in America, in my “old routine” I know it will be very easy to lose that desire but I don’t want to. My life in America may not be quite the adventure it was in Egypt but it is still an adventure and there will always be things to explore, new places to see and people to meet.
As far as return-culture shock, it has definitely affected me more than I thought it would. I still have some rather comical habits that I can’t quite break; such as throwing my used toilet paper in a trash can instead of the toilet and wincing every time I see a police cruiser. I have noticed the women wearing hijabs and felt an ache to speak with them in Arabic (but then not approaching them for fear they don’t actually speak fluent Arabic). I have also never noticed how much sports clothing Americans wear. Its everywhere! Or how clean EVERYTHING is haha. More than that, however, I have seen America in a new light. All the stereotypes and critiques I heard about Americans while I was in Egypt have instilled in me a new perspective on Americans. Now I see big ol’, waving red flags everywhere I look. The middle-school age girls at my local grocery store dressed like they were college-age women headed to some downtown club. The fat people in scooters or wheelchairs because they are far too lazy to walk. How rude people can be even while waiting in line for a bus. I remember what it meant for Egyptians to have clothes on their backs, to have proper food to eat, their appreciation for the basic and simple. I remember their hospitality and how a guest, even a stranger, can never turn down an offer for a drink. I miss these things and I miss my friends. I miss taking part in a new adventure every weekend. I miss everyday being a learning experience and a test. Reverse culture shock is also funny in the way that I didn’t realize. I have truthfully forgotten a couple cultural norms for Americans. For example, when ordering food or denying an offered beverage. But luckily I have friends and family here that can shoulder the cultural norms for me haha.
Being back in America does have its perks though, don’t get me wrong. I have already gone for a run twice in the streets. I have worn shorts and skirts and t-shirts in public. I have cranked up my favorite music on the radio and rolled the car windows down in order to better shout it out. I have driven a car. But most importantly, I have eaten every American dish that I could get my hands on. I don’t miss the traffic, the dirty streets, the corrupted police of Egypt but I do miss the people and the simple appreciations they have.
I don’t know how long these conflicting feelings will last about my home. I hope I can maintain some sense of objective criticism of America since I do intend to become involved in world politics one day but I also look forward to truly enjoying being home. I don’t want to forget my time in Egypt and I don’t want to forget the desire I have to change that region’s political structure for the better. Right now my experience in Egypt seems like a dream but hopefully as I tell my stories, more people will be able to relate to what I went through over there. Now, no one seems to really understand but in time I hope and believe they will. Maybe then my reunion with America will truly mean home sweet home.
The best way to describe these last couple of weeks is “emotionally charged.” It has been a rollercoaster of feelings for all different kinds of reasons – depression, passion, wonder, frustration, euphoria, contentment, anger, shock. So much has happened since Easter that it is a mystery to me how I’ve managed to handle it all. I really owe most of it to the incredible friends I have made since being here. Without the constant mutual support between Sarah and Matt and I, these last couple of days, especially, could have easily been overwhelming. Before I begin, I do want to give the two of them a shout-out. Up until I met them at the airport, I had no idea of who I would be spending my 4 months in Egypt with. That was definitely and easily my biggest anxiety. Anything can be made better with amazing people, or vice verse-ly, a tough situation can be made miserable with the wrong type of people. I rolled the dice and thank gosh, luck was on my side. Sarah and Matt have turned out to be the most incredible people, they are passionate and caring and although we differ on many issues, I would do anything to help them. They are those kinds of people that you stay life long friends with. In fact, we’ve already started planning trips together to visit one another once we get back to the States. The people you have these experiences with really make the biggest difference… and I am so grateful and blessed to have shared it with them. They have made my time here fun and enjoyable, especially through those tough times (like when you get sick, when the showers don’t work, when you miss home, when you need a hug, or when tragedy strikes at home). So here’s to you Matt and Sarah, before this trip I worried I would lose friends, but here I am gaining two best friends.
I will start with the reasons behind the more exciting and happy feelings that I have had over the last two weeks. The majority of these feelings occurred while we were enjoying some time away from Alexandria. The first getaway was the weekend following Easter. The entire group met up with Miriam (Roma) and we spent an entire day exploring Cairo together. We headed to Coptic Cairo and then made our way (slowly) across town to Khan Al Khalili. Coptic Cairo is a place that just makes you go “Wow.” Everything there dates back to 14, 15, 16, AD: the gorgeous churches, the breathtaking paintings, the relics, the stone streets, the ancient architectural designs.. some even older than that. The alleyways are narrow and filled with bright tapestries and photographs and trinkets for sale. The churches look as if they belong in Italy. The most astounding part of Cairo for me was walking into the prison cell of St. George. I’m still not sure if he is considered a Catholic Saint or not, but he sure as shootin’ should be. What an incredible story. I highly recommend taking the time to Wikipedia it. It was another heavy, spiritual moment that left me in a slight daze. Adding to the awe and wonder was the display of the torture tools used on St. George… it was unreal. Following that very moving experience we made our way to a much lighter atmosphere in Khan Al Khalili. We spent hours wandering and admiring and looking and smelling. I bought a couple of small things but my most prized find was a tiny little perfume shop that sold perfumes for 1 pound per gram. In other words, I could get a full bottle of exceptional (and rare) Egyptian made perfume for a little more than $2. I bought two bottles. haha. Now I’m going to smell like Lotus flowers and Queens of the Nile when I get back home
Cairo was a great, short trip but the next adventure to Sharm Al-Shaik blew every other vacation and experience I’ve had thus far in Egypt out of the water (with the possible exception of climbing Mt. Sinai). It topped riding a camel, seeing the pyramids, the luxurious Nile cruise… it even beat a weekend at the 5 star resort in Ain Sockna. It was exhilarating and relaxing and just plain FUN. The initial intention of Sarah and I escaping Alexandria was to get some sun on the last weekend we would have together (other than the one before finals). So, where better than sunny Sharm Al-Shaik along the Red Sea? While enjoying our time at the beach, however, we were made aware of all the tourist-y activities available. It didn’t take very long to decide that we were gonna do something nuts haha, yet 170 pounds later I have never made a better decision. The three of us were first taken out into the bay on a glass bottom boat so we could see every reef and fish that passed underneath. Then Sarah and I went snorkeling with the same fish and coral. That experience reconfirmed every decision I have made to join the Navy. Despite everything… I love the water. I love the smell of the sea, the misty burn of the wind on my face. What a feeling! Being in the warm water with the perfect sun on my back and looking big eyed at the vibrant colored fish… it was a feeling of pure joy and happiness that I will never forget. I loved every minute of it. But, just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, it did. Less than 3 hours later I was on a boat in the middle of the bay stepping into a harness. Next minute I was up over 100 feet in the air, parasailing, soaring and floating in the breeze like a lazy butterfly. Under my feet was nothing but wave upon wave of beautiful, deep sea blue, but to my right and left was the breath-taking spectacle of the sun setting beyond distant Sinai mountains hovering ominously above palm tree covered beaches that seemed to stretch the length of the sky. Just wow. Wow. I’m not sure there’s ever been any other moment that I have felt so free.
Where there is happy there is sad (unfortunately) however, and these last two weeks were no different. I have suffered a couple of days of nostalgia for home. Mostly caused by frustration and anger over the small things here. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be cured by a pep talk from Sarah and a hot shower while blasting Toby Keith, though. It is easy to forget while reading this blog that despite all these wonderful adventures and ah-ha moments, I’m not home. I can’t do all the things I want. I can’t eat what I want. I can’t go for a run after a frustrating day of classes (more on that in a second) or grab a bowl of cereal when I’m hungry. I can’t have bacon at breakfast or wear shorts when its hot. I get charged triple anywhere I go because I’m very obviously white (taxi drivers are especially guilty of this). I haven’t heard country or pop or rock music on the radio in months, I haven’t really heard English in the media in months. I still get the woots and whistles, and approached by hopeful Egyptian men because I’m a highly sought after foreign girl. So many things that recently have clawed the way to the forefront of my mind, and consumed my sole focus for a day or two. This craving for America and for home, as well as the source of MUCH of my recent frustration, also came through recent debates/discussions within my classes. The frustration aspect mostly came from the passion to fix things here in Egypt. I feel it would be almost too easy to just run for office and kick out all the old Mubarak-age bureaucrats. I am frustrated because I wish more Egyptians would feel the same way. Where is the action to follow their words? Someone has to take that passion and get it where it can do some good. Someone needs to challenge Morsi. To put their name on a slate and state their platform. Why no one does is beyond me. Also, many of my classroom lectures in the past have discussed America and I am extremely proud of how objective I have grown, even to the point where I can quite easily see and discuss flaws made by America and the West without emotion. However, with all the other anti-Egypt emotional forces bending and threatening my objective will, I finally couldn’t take it. I more or less snapped. Nothing crazy or anything but rather than swallow the digs against America, I fought back and argued – very passionately too. My lawyer-to-be sister would have been proud. haha.
As I said, the missing home feeling was mostly manageable but what happened on April 15th and even more recently, yesterday, the 17th, shook all my resolve to the core. That was when tragedy struck home and it nearly crippled me. The events of Boston and in West, Texas have had an indescribable effect on my appreciation for America. Being here I have learned to truly appreciate everything I have (as I discussed especially regarding the freedom of religion) but in no way could I have predicted what something like that would do to me. Regarding Boston, not knowing who is responsible (yet) is the only merciful aspect of the entire situation for me. Not knowing who would murder people like that, my people is truly a blessing in disguise. This wasn’t in Baghdad, or Tel Aviv or Beirut or Cairo.. this was in the heart of America. This was in Boston. This was in a town an hour from my home. Boston is my town. When people here ask me what city I’m from in America, I say Boston. Not knowing who would dare to strike at my home has been my only source of relief. Being here and being so helpless… and not knowing the news for what feels like centuries… It was and is beyond angering. Here people went about their daily lives like nothing had changed. I wonder if they have grown so used to explosions and violence and bloodshed that they can no longer mourn the loss of life. If they have become so accustomed to it all that it hardly seems tragic anymore. I know I should pity a person who has gone through so much that would cause those (lack of) feelings but how can I when it was my home this time? Wouldn’t they feel the same if it was their neighbors covered in blood like it was mine? Not sure. But I do know that what happened in Boston on April 15th has me itching to get home and to do something. I am proud to say that I will be a part of the Navy and it will soon be my job to get the guy that did that. A part of me hopes they don’t catch him for a year or so, so I can do the job myself.
So sorry for the wordy entry… This post is very authentic and I hope it wasn’t seen as a complaining rant or a showing off tangent. I wanted to be real. I promised I would be. This is how I’ve been feeling and I wanted to share because it is part of studying abroad, just like it’s a part of life. I hope you enjoyed some of it at least.
Thank you for reading and until next time…
Today I’ll be talking about:
I. Missing Things
II. Previous posts
III. Coming soon!
I. Missing Things
As much as I love Argentina, there are some things that really annoy me about. I wouldn’t say that I feel homesick, but I do miss certain things about the US:
-Mac n’ cheese
-Cheddar cheese, period.
-How organized and timely everything is
-How most of the population does not have a mullet or dreads
-Tupperware—with lids and everything
-The salad bar at my university, open every lunch and dinner. Spinach, beets, carrots, tomatoes…Whenever I want them!
-How you can text someone just to say hi or goodnight or to have an entire conversation. It’s way too expensive to do that here.
-Getting exact change with no fuss, every time, every store
-Not getting whistled at every time I walk out the door
-How the entire town does NOT shut down for 5 hours every day for siesta. You can go out and buy a replacement toothbrush at 3:30 in the afternoon—even on Sundays!
-How pedestrians have the right of way
-How cheap clothing is
-RECYCLING CENTERS. Recycling bins everywhere.
-A lower level of caution and care is needed walking around on the street. You can wear a backpack without worrying if someone will try to get into it. The streets are super well-lit at night.
-Being able to dry my clothes in a drier if it’s raining outside and I’m out of clean underwear.
-Smoking is NOT ALLOWED INDOORS, and people actually enforce that.
-Organic produce. Wholefoods. Trader Joe’s.
-Classes that promote critical thinking more than memorization of facts.
Of course, I’m still going to miss things about Argentina when I go home:
-Alfajores. I think I have a legitimate addiction to them.
-Fernet (Found a place back home where you can get it…But it costs about twice as much, and it’s kind of a pain in the butt. Ditto Quilmes.)
-Cheap, prevalent public transportation. California’s public transportation has some problems, to say the least. People complain about the buses here like nobody’s business, but they’ve been pretty good to me.
-Being able to talk crap/tell secrets in English
-Clothes don’t have to match—spots, stripes, animal print? It all matches here, guys. Swag pants and crazy calzas are normal.
-Getting whistled at every time I walk out the door. Annoying as it is… it’s nice to know I look good! I think I’m going to feel invisible by comparison when I go home.
-Latin music (reggaeton, kumbia, etc) playing in the clubs. Katy Perry, I really don’t miss you.
-Being able to go out as easily and frequently as I do here
-I love how any random guy in a club here knows how to dance at least a little bit. They have rhythm, they know how to do spins, and they know how to maneuver a woman. White guys… er…
-The slower pace of life. I love how, here, you can take your time eating dinner and talk to your friends, even if it takes 3 hours.
-Argentine slang. I do have friends who speak Spanish back home…but it’s the neutral Mexican Spanish. No one will understand me if I say, “Sos un pelotudo chamuyero—andate!” Sad.
-Being called Paloma, Palo, Palomita
-The number of parks and plazas
-How it’s socially acceptable to make out in a park
-How politically active everyone is. They’re not afraid to share their opinions, to say the least.
II. Previous Posts
11. Road Trip!
12. My Mate for Life
III. Coming soon!
The Student’s Life
Rafting in San Rafael
Daily existence in Argentina continued
Chile Part II
The split up and the return to BA