It's hard to believe we've been back in the U.S. for only a month. Other than being out of touch with pop culture references and being impressed with the technology advances in the last two years, we're adapting well. Sometimes it feels like we never left.
In fact, one of the hardest things about returning is not the reverse culture shock, not disgust at the massive wealth of Americans...no, the hardest part is how easy it is to return, how quickly it seems that Namibia never existed, that the whole thing was just a dream, the memory of which is strong when you first wake up, but disintegrates as the day progresses, until you can't remember anything other than that you had a dream. Namibia is 8,000 miles away, we could fly there in a day, but sitting here, it feels impossibly distant.
Namibia has had and effect on us, but most of the change is internal, and therefore only subtly evident. When I first drove my dad's car out of our neighborhood, I was on the wrong side of the road until Zac reminded me. At the end of our visit with my grandparents, during the goodbyes, I kept saying the Namlish (Namibian English) departure words: "alright...yes...OK" instead of "goodbye...see you later." I seem to say the scripted Namlish greeting, "Hello, how are you?" more than I normally used to. In my education class I'm taking, I keep saying "learners" instead of "students" and my classmates look at me a bit funny. All of the food seemed really good and edible, the milk tasted delicious, and the toilet paper was really soft and thick. But all this we already take for granted again.
We've got thousands of digital photos and all my emails as a record, but the essence, the flavour and smell of Namibia, the sound of the voices and goats and chickens, is already too far away.
On New Years Eve, we were on the bank of the Olentangy River in downtown Columbus. As I watched the fireworks explode in the foggy mist that hovered over the city, I thought, "it's 7 a.m. in Namibia. The sun is up, the sky is bright blue, it's starting to get hot, the chickens are already searching for bugs from the previous night's rain, our yard is a jungle of weeds..." But they were only thoughts. I couldn't go there; I was on the banks of the river shivering.
No, the hard part is not returning; that is easy because America is normal to us. The hard part is holding on to Namibia.