Living in one place for a couple months – regardless of one’s experience – inevitably causes nostalgia upon leaving and for a succeeding period of time. If it was a bad time, the pleasant memories override the bad, and if it was a good time, as was Ecuador, everything habitual and endearing continues to perpetuate once home again.
In my case, the lingering reflexes from previous travels usually mess me up in Indiana – sometimes big time. I tend to call these the ironies of my lifestyle, but lately I feel it’s more a deficiency in domestic knowledge, exacerbated by my fondness for the last three months of international living.
I can’t live up to familial expectations
Once I knew my work dates for December, my sister-in-law planned her son’s baptism around my schedule – to make sure I could definitely attend. And there I was on the morning of his christening, coffee in hand doing the two-step warm-up dance outside in tights, watching my friend’s husband jump my borrowed car’s battery where it sat 90 miles from the church. It’s not too hard to remember to turn the headlights off in the pitch black of night the evening prior, but that’s assuming one gets those pangs of common sense.
…because I’m used to: cheap taxis and close proximity
When my school’s transportation or my feet couldn’t take me where I needed to be, I could stand on a curb in the historic center and hail a yellow car that never cost more than $5, even for a twenty minute trip. Distances traveled – in this country smaller than Nevada – were relatively miniscule compared my US of A expectations.
In my breaths between trips, I rely on my wheeling-and-dealing car salesman of a brother to have a means of getting around. Taxis in Indiana are as scattered as stars with meters that run like Michael Johnson. Not efficient, easy, or happening.
I’ve got plumbing confusion.
Cuenca resembles an historic European city with cobblestone streets, cloth napkin lunches, and more ornate churches than there are Sundays in a year. It is a lovely town with enjoyable nightlife and beautiful rivers flanking the walkable center. That’s the necessary introduction for my dear American audience that will be disgusted with the necessary toilet paper disposal method: a trash can.
…because I’m used to: weak sauce toilets
The plumbing in Ecuador generally requires an ‘exit-stage-left’ strategy for used tissue. Not to divulge my rituals behind closed stall doors, but I have yet to not be confused with the protocol since my return. In the same way that I don’t remember my current continent when my daily alarm rings, I have to go through a process of remembering where I am and what I’m doing every time nature summons.
The motor skills flop when cooking duty calls.
Whereas my fifteenth year was marked by an obsession with Food Network, today I chop vegetables at the speed and with the delicacy of Remy’s first try. I can make a spectacular explosion of coarsely slaughtered salad ingredients, which is actually my most coveted meal when abroad, but anything involving even marginal levels of calculation and finesse isn’t possible for at least a month post-trip.
I’ve actually got a known track record with the Indianapolis Fire Department with this issue.
…because I’m used to: $3.50 lunch specials and constant group meals
Near the end of Cuenca, I realized I hadn’t cooked for myself – not a saucepan touched – in months. It was more cost-effective and timely to eat at a nearby restaurant with wifi than it was to assemble something palatable in the hotel’s kitchen. I also felt like a bothersome house guest when I tried. And eating with the students meant a pre-set menu consisting of meat and potatoes, sandwiched by a creamy soup and a fruit platter curtain call.
I’m speaking the wrong language.
Ecuador presented me with daily challenges to expand my language skills, much like New York gave me the sensation of world travel the moment I left my apartment. I was able to push beyond my fluency from senior year of high school and regain the abilities swiftly lost with the apprehension of Italian.
…because I’m used to: never being able to communicate with the surrounding majority
This is nothing new. I was saying naka to my mother two months after Fiji – instead of ‘thank you’ – and even though my recent firings of Spanish have hit some native speakers, I am forgetting how to communicate to people at home in daily, civil settings. I am used to being a fly on the wall and observing life I don’t connect with personally. In this environment, I can pop in and pop out; obligation to the place is non-existent.
With every trip abroad, the return home gets easier. I’m hoping these are the remnants of a dying reverse-culture shock trend. It’s a plan to tackle one or more of these issues while in Thailand…and again when I return to the great US of A.