America: Three Years Later

I’ll admit it; I was nervous about coming back. Even though it’s where I grew up, and where my family and most of my friends live, it had come to seem so far away.

America. It had even come to sound wistful  when I said it aloud. The land of dreams. A place where, depending on whom you listened to, everything was falling apart; or a place where everything, after so long, finally was starting to come together.

I wanted to avoid at all costs the embarrassment of seeming like a foreigner, so I worked hard to remember all the things that were different about a place that had become a vacation destination for me: Air conditioning, ice cubes, big cars, big portions. I had done well, I thought; as my friend Katie whisked me toward my old skyline, I was able to help her navigate the highway/turnpike cluster from hell. We got back to her place, and I asked to use the loo. Twenty-four hours of traveling solo will do that to you.

I couldn’t find the flusher on the toilet.

I’m patting the tank. I’m pushing on tiles. I look above me for a string. Nothing. I figure I’d wash my hands, then give it another go before heading out to the living room and admitting defeat. And there, snuggled between the tank and the sink, was where the flusher had been from the time I was potty trained until I moved away: On the FREAKING SIDE OF THE TOILET. Obviously, I hadn’t thought of everything.

Luckily that has been my only mistake thus far, although there have been many things I’d forgotten about – window screens, ATMs everywhere, customer service, enormous refrigerators. And some new things, too, such as absolutely absurd pharmaceutical commercials. My favorite one is for Yaz that consists entirely of clarifications and side effects. Yet, the first two sentences she says contradict each other. Oh, and I think it’s shot in a nightclub. Classy.

I’ve also been struck by the technology here. From my mother’s computerized washer-dryer to GPS devices in cars to my first view of an iPhone app, there seems to be a nifty gadget for just about everything you want or need to do. Where I live antiquity is the rule, improvised modernity is the exception – and only the very rich have such things. The simple Mediterranean life might be the ideal for some, but would a hands-free can opener gadget be so bad?

I kid. But the things I’ve remembered, and experienced, since arriving for this visit have been nothing short of soul-satisfying: The long hugs from family and friends. Sleeping in salty ocean breezes. Sitting around the dining room table after dinner, “bazooing” as my mom’s family calls it, until it’s time to go to bed. Catching up, seeing old pictures, meeting new faces of little ones.

There’s more to come, as my visit is only half over – I just wanted to get down some thoughts before heading out to meet up with friends!

12 thoughts on “America: Three Years Later

  1. Oh those Yaz commercials! Last i heard Yaz been pulled from the shelves pending a giant DVT based lawsuit! The ad is a gem though.

  2. You actually look like a foreigner ! well I guess it is not your fault, I personally thought that it was weird that people that is from a country and goes to live to a different one comes back like not knowing anything at all about their native country, but the truth is that it is just a consequence of living overseas, no biggie

  3. Y’know, a can opener is the one thing I *don’t* need over here: think about it, have you ever bought a can of anything in France that didn’t have a ring-pull top?

  4. Which European country are you living in where people don’t have GPS’s and I-Phones? All the ones I’ve been to, every second person seems to have one. Actually, according to the statistics they’re much more common in Europe than in the US ….

    • John, I live in Montpellier. It is a pedestrian friendly town, and I don’t drive nor do my friends have cars. It is also a small town in the south where there are a lot of students and not the richest people, so iPhones are not prevalent at all. Everyone has pay as you go phones, which means iPhones are not practical. This also holds true for Italy. What you were seeing are pay as you go knock-off phones, which are cheap and everyone has. Or, you were in major cities where foreigners were using theirs. Or, maybe in the north they are more prevalent; I haven’t been recently.

      • Funny, I live in Montpellier too🙂 . Great place. I also don’t drive and don’t have a car. I prefer to take the bike and tramway.
        Anyways, most of the people I know who have an i-phones are once that work, not students, that probably explains the discrepancy😉 . Are you studying in Montpellier?

  5. So funny you mention the pharmaceutical ads. Every time we have visitors from Australia they are just amazed at many there are of them and how ridiculous they sound with all the side effects.

    And yes, it is weird how you forget things you’ve grown up with all your life. I remember panicking on one trip home when there were no other cars on the road and I just couldn’t remember which side I was supposed to be on. Nothing seemed ‘normal’ anymore. It gets normal again after a while though and you slip back into it.

  6. Enjoyed/related to your article – esp because your time frame was only 3 years away, and STILL things look so modern, different. I try not to look like an alien might at all the changes – last time I wasn´t sure how to use a public phone and of course had no change. The bulk size of peanut butter jars, the amount of wild animals that co-habit with the humans (my parents´new home is Colorado), such as pelicans, blue herons, coyotes, rabbits, spiders, black birds and a million other birds for which I constantly consulted bird guide…and brown bears: they are all part of the scenario, and the funny thing is that this is exactly 2 minutes from the mall! Baseball games, concerts in natural amphitheaters, and huge amounts of investment in entertainment. Vast open space. I could go on! I live in Santiago Chile, (very like the Mediterranean environment you mentioned). The United States – yes, my home away from home and a vacation destination! Regards, Robin

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