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Saturday, November 13, 2010

A brief trip to the US, after spending two years away.

Pictures (I did not take many becuase I was too busy eating)
1. Fall colors.
2. Visiting Chris is Connecticut.
3. With Mom in Big Sur, CA.
In the beginning of September, 2010, I flew back to California for a short holiday. I had not been back to the US since I left in June of 2008. I flew into Brussels and found myself with about four hours to spare till my next flight. I sat down on a bench in a busy part of the terminal and watched all the people go by. There were so many different kinds of people coming and going, it was fun to watch. I then flew into Chicago and made my way across the airport to get to my next gate. I guess re-entering the US was not as shocking as I thought it would be. I remember marveling at how shiny and clean all the cars were outside, and how all the magazines and newspapers that were in the store were current and up-to-date. I passed a McDonalds on my way to my next gate and I decided to stop and get a burger and milk-shake. I had a few dollar bills and coins that I had hung onto. All the money felt so crisp and new and the coins were so shiny and small. The milk-shake was good (super sweet), but I discovered that my burger had no meat in it ("where's the beef?" I thought). It was too far to walk back to the McD's so I just ate it (what's scary is that it tasted like the meat was there). I couldn't help but notice that everyone around me was either fiddling with an iPhone or Blackberry or had their face burried in books titled "The Girl With ....." or "The Girl Who ......" What happened to Harry Potter? That's what I wanted to know. I flew into California and I had a great few days with my Mom and Dad. We visited my great aunt and uncle, who I had not seen in a long time (it was great to see them again). My Dad then flew back to Rome, and Mom and I drove down to stay with my grandmother. I did a lot of running, mostly so I could eat more. It was quite cold and I enjoyed being able to see my breath as I went running in the mornings. I ate a lot of food, especially breakfast food; donuts, orange juice, sausage, bacon, hash-browns. I caught up on movies, though I found that I had to rent things online since movie rental stores don't seem to exist any more. I visited my uncle in Santa Cruz and got to see my new cousin (Finnegan) when he was just a few days old. I really enjoyed walking along the beach and watching all the different breeds of dogs that people were walking with (in The Gambia you do not see nearly as much variety). It was also good to get behind the wheel of a car again, though my Mom did not let me drive on the highways. It wasn't as hard to get back into driving as I thought it was going to be, but my parallel parking skills are definitely gone. I took the time to retake the GRE and visit a few schools as well, which was good. I had to practice speaking "American" english and not asking more than just "how are you?" as a greeting (in The Gambia, half a conversation can just be greetings). After a great week and a half in California, Mom and I flew from San Fransisco to Boston, where we met up with my brother Chris. It was really good to see Chris again and he always seems to be getting taller. We drove up to Maine and I was mesmerized by the beautiful New England Fall colors. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Maine we discovered that our suitcases had been broken into (probably back in San Fransisco). I was nothing but frustrated; two uneventful years in West Africa and I get robbed while I'm in America! Regardless, we had a wonderful time in Maine. I had some pumpkin ale and ate some delicious clam chowder. I spent the last days of my vacation in Connecticut, visiting Chris at Conn College. I realized that I had gone running in three different states in about 20 days. Though it seemed like it was all too soon, I said goodbye to Mom and Chris again and returned to The Gambia. It was a long trip back and I was shocked again at the humidity wave that hit me as I stepped off the plane in Banjul. However, my host-father was there to meet me at the airport and he drove me straight back to my compound, which was great. Despite all the running I had done while in the US, I still managed to gain about 12 pounds in 20 days (which means I put on a half a pound a day ... wow). However, the best part of my vacation was, by far, the time I got to spend with my family. You never realize how much you really miss people until you see them all again. I suppose I have also lived for the past two years in a culture that places a lot of value on family. Either way, I'm very happy and thankful that I got to take this trip. As I listened to the now familiar calls of the birds as I drove from the airport, and took in the smells and heat of The Gambia, I also realized that I was glad to be back. It seems unbelievalbe that I only have six months left, and I'm sure they are going to fly by!

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