Before leaving Nicaragua I talked about returning to the U.S. with other volunteers and referred to it as “the other side”. Although I had returned home twice during my 2 years of service, my return trip back was completely different. In the last year of my service I think I finally grasped just how special Nicaragua is and how much I loved my life lifestyle during service.
Reverse culture shock is something Peace Corps tries to prepare you for as you close your service, but honestly it hasn’t been an issue. Of course I’ve done silly things like address people in Spanish when they clearly don’t speak the language. I’ve gone through a drive through and passed the order window with out even realizing it and wound up at the pay window with nothing ordered in my name. Little American conveniences that are new or I haven’t used in quite some time tend to surprise me.
The transition from Nica to AZ and then on to South Carolina for grad school was quick, but honestly I don’t know if I would have had it any other way, now that I’m here. I like having a new focus and meeting new people immediately. I’ve never been good at sitting in limbo and twiddling my thumbs for very long. I arrived in SC a week ago now with hopes of moving in to a place right away, but with nothing available, my roommate Chalin and I are renting a house from some undergrads who are gone for the summer. Low and behold our third night in the house we didn’t have electricity because they forgot to pay the electric bill. Another week went by and the water went out. I swear it was like Nica all over again, but honestly I didn’t mind it. I found it quite comical actually that here I am in the U.S. and this doesn’t even phase me anymore.
What I don’t find comical is how much everything costs! I can’t even remember what things cost before I left for Nica for a comparison, but I sure as heck don’t remember toothpaste costing $5 or a dinner out being so darn expensive. Granted everything was so cheap in Nica and I was used to dealing in cordobas that I’m flabbergasted every time I take dollar bills out to pay for something. Spending $20 in Nica was a huge purchase. I find myself comparing prices of things on craigslist as I buy things for my new life in Columbia, SC to have a better understanding of what things cost.
Now that I’ve crossed over to the other side I am starting to realize the impact that living two years abroad had on me. The number one thing that drives me crazy in the U.S. is the amount of time people spend on their smart phones instead of interacting with the people around them. I look around me at a bar and realize that there is more virtual communication going on than face-to-face. A new application I just learned about called Tendr lets people search for a girl/guy by distance from them, their picture on their profile, and friends in common. It’s basically replacing organic chemistry that exists between two people. I am clearly not a supporter and grossed out by the amount of young men and women utilizing the app. I am clearly behind on several trends including Dub Step and smashbox burgers.
What I do find comfort in is my spanish class. My Peace Corps friend and fellow classmate, Chalin, and I have a high-level Spanish class all to ourselves. The first day of class we just had an hour and a half conversation about our Peace Corps experience, which felt awesome! I hadn’t spoken more than a few words since landing from Nica and it was such a release! It was also very comforting that I could understand absolutely everything my teacher was saying in perfect Spanish because I had a hard time understanding many Nicaraguans at some points. I also had lunch with a graduate of my program from Chile and we spoke the entire time in Spanish with complete understanding of each others' idioms! What a great feeling to know my Spanish training will translate across countries even though I spoke quite a bit of slang over the last 2 years.
Our first night out in Columbia with the gang!
It’s also amazing to have my buddy Chalin as we go through this transition together. We speak in Spanish and understand what’s going through the other one’s mind. We both get overly excited about silly first world conveniences and the variety of food available. We can even share the cost of books!
Besides my stomach being upset from all the rich foods and feeling freezing wherever I go due to my lack of exposure to AC, I’m doing pretty well. I really enjoy the people in my program so far and we have bonded already. It’s the end of week one and I can’t even count on my hands the number of times we’ve all hung out. I was stoaked when a few class mates, Will and Kristen, wanted to go trail running with me through a state park this past weekend. It also sounds like there are a few surfers in the group so I won’t be alone in hunting down waves. This weekend a large group of us are heading to Adam's lake house for three nights for some water skiing, booze cruisin and bonding time! Almost feels like Peace Corps group all over again!