I’ve been back in America for almost a week now and it’s not at all what I expected. I thought I would have some kind of “reverse culture shock” that we had been warned of, but instead it’s just life as usual.
I loved my time in Africa. I didn’t kiss the ground when I got to O’Hare, yelling pro-America sentiments and cutting in the customs line so I could get my hands on the first cheeseburger with fries and an extra extra large soft drink that I saw. (For those of you that know me you know that I actually wouldn’t do this no matter how happy I was to be back. Silent Panda doesn’t make a scene.) It was just nice to be back, and to know that in a matter of hours I would begin to see my friends and family and have the opportunity to sleep in my own bed. For a couple hours I noticed differences, like people observing traffic lights or speaking with my own accent (saying “wader” instead of enunciating the ‘t’ in “water”) and being understood, but after that it just felt like I never left.
Places and people are different, and one place is not better than another. Of course it’s lovely to have reliable toilets, Netflix, and coffeemakers, but every place has its own things that people don’t like to live without. Comparisons can be helpful when trying to tell friends how your trip was or even to appreciate what you have more, but not to say that “my country is better I’m so glad to be home”. I’m just glad to be home because it’s home.
I learned so much in Rwanda and Uganda. I can already tell that the things I learned there are changing the way I think for the better. There’s no clear cut way to tell that, but I’ve noticed. I’m truly thankful to have had the opportunity to study there and for the discussions and conversations had with my classmates and the people of the two countries.
And so I look forward to my next adventure.