Turns out I may have just gotten a whole lot less exciting. Half-empty-glass-syndrome, though. Just because I no longer bathe with a cup or shit in a hole…doesn’t mean I can’t wax philosophic, right? Let’s fill that glass up.
Hmm. Don’t really feel like I have left Uganda or that Uganda has left me. She has left her mark, discreetly yet indelibly, on my every cell. Being suddenly home doesn’t help my perspective (air travel is WAY too weird for my human brain to grasp---I should still be shouldering my pack through the Sahara desert, with a gasping camel at my side at this point in the journey). I just left and now I’m home. I shopped at target today. I bought a pumpkin-scented candle and running socks, amongst other things. For dinner, my roommates and I ate quinoa and cheese (like macaroni and cheese) with red wine. I’m not stunned or horribly culture-shocked. Just gently bewildered by how fast one can adapt to cold turkey changes. .
While my current situation is incredible (living with two of my oldest and dearest childhood friends in a house and having access to hot water and cheese), a lot of things haven’t been ducky. Especially on a philosophical, mental level. It would be a waste to speak of waste, so I won’t. I’ll be happy using recyclable bags and taking the bus, but really it doesn’t matter what we do. It’s all a state of mind, and as long as you are happy with the way you live, that’s all that matters. I believe us all to be our own universes (sounds lonely, but not intended to be), and as long as you are following the unique gravity of yourself, nothing else matters. You could be the richest person on earth, but if you are smiling like you mean it, what does it really matter. Most of the people in my dirt poor village smiled their way down the dirt road. Whatever. But holy guacamole, you really can’t get into comparisons, unless you want to fall down the rabbit hole of guilt, confusion, and chaos. It is what it is. Can I have some another chai latte, please?
I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. I’m 25 going on 12, and I don’t know my conscience from a hole in the ground. But I do think that Uganda gave me a whole lot of additional warmth for the people of the world, and at the end of the day, doesn’t matter if you’re driving a Prius, Mustang, or a Wheelbarrow. I want to see your head tilt when you listen to a story your best friend is telling you. Or hear about the feeling you get when you are around your grandchildren. Or listen to you rave about how Enyasa (cassava bread) is the best thing since…well, enyasa.
Because I promised you that my experience in America would be JUST as bizarre as my time in Uganda, let me deliver a few tantalizing tidbits. As you may have expected, I have done some stupid, regrettable things since coming home. The first regrettable instance is when I got drunk off of 3 beers. Weird. I went out with some old friends and brother and was so excited about all of the Belgian microbrews that don’t have taglines like “The Taste of Our Country” or are called “Senator”, that I drank 3 rather quickly and became quite effusive. This unfortunately was the night before Christmas eve, and I spent all of the next day hungover. Classy you say? I never promised you class. I’m here to deliver the ugly, the unfortunate, and the awkward. And that’s exactly what this girl was emulating during the peak of the holiday season. Note to all returning PCVs: Go easy on that Fat-Tire and Spotted-Cow. You’ll have plenty of time to indulge.
Next. As sort of a symbolic hangover itself, after the excitement of moving in with my friends, I checked out the local gym in the neighborhood. I’m not a gym person. Not sure what kind of person I am, but I don’t exactly feel stimulated when I’m around weights and pullies. But, it’s a Minnesotan winter, and about the only people running about outside are either wasted or squirrels. And my cheese layer is becoming a whole lot less theoretical. So, anyway. I went to the gym to meet with a dude, and was instantly assaulted by a barrage of aggressive-Minnesotan-bro-rhetoric. I was informed about the importance of freedom to carry guns, the necessity to spend 75% of your time lifting weights, how great the vikings are and the nutritional value of meat. Nothing wrong with that, but I noticed my ability to socially interact closed down to a tiny window, and I left feeling more culture shocked than I have in days. It's not easy.
I had also decided to get myself out by signing up for an indoor ultimate Frisbee tournament, which took place last night. I haven’t played competitively for three years because of my ACL and peace corps, but I knew that I wanted to get into it in the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, though I thought all skill levels and (ahem) conditioning levels would be present, I guess indoor tournaments are an unspoken playground for all of the best club and university-level players in Minnesota. I’m proud to announce a definite lack of vomit, feces, or shame present last night, but I did leave halfway through the tournament because of exhaustion and also because my team had enough female players and was already good enough without a breathless, starstruck RPCV to help them out. I did score a point!
Have I mentioned that I live with two of my oldest and dearest friends? I should also mention at this point that we couldn’t be more different. Liz, the house owner, is a wedding and event planner. She dresses to kill and totters around on stilettos 6 days a week being a baller at work, and hangs pictures of Sex and the City on her walls. Kristin is a high school math teacher recently returned from 3 years teaching in Colombia, has a wit and logic as sharp as aforementioned stiletto, and speaks Spanish to all the janitors at her international school. I, on the other hand, am a dolphin. It works out alarmingly well. I love these girls. The other night we dug out all of our notes, pictures, and embarrassing evidence from our past, and spent hours laughing at our advanced social wit and blossoming adolescent dreaming in the 8th grade. Below is a bit of wisdom from an 11 year old Ilse Griffin (with the same handwriting I have now).