Thoughts on America, so far

Two and a half weeks have passed so far in our settling into life in ‘murica. It doesn’t feel like it’s really hit yet because life hasn’t had much chance to normalise so far. That and I’m still doing stuff like spelling things with s’s instead of z’s (zed’s, not zee’s) and too many u’s. And our daughter has had a few moments of homesickness which is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s summer break here now though so she won’t get into any real routine til late August, so we’ll just have to get by til then and hope that the incredible heat doesn’t stave off adventure. It’s hard to get outside much because it’s just too darn hot.

Driving around though I have had just a few observations. Since leaving NC 13 years ago, having lived here the 6 months before moving to the UK, I can see that there are positive changes. I’ve seen a lot more healthy food and variety available at the grocery stores (unfortunately it’s also very expensive). I’ve also seen a reasonable sized offering of authentic Mexican food ingredients (not just taco kits) in typical grocery stores in our suburban area outside of Raleigh.

I have also seen fewer Trump stickers than I had braced for (only two so far), possibly due to being inside of Wake County for the most part, but we have taken a couple long road trips. I am sure they are waiting out there for me somewhere en force though. Maybe on our epic road trip in August through Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Kentucky.

During our trips to the Appalachians and to Atlanta, we have driven though a few places where I noted a strong Hispanic presence, as evidenced by signs written in Spanish or people we encountered at stops. Thirteen years ago I was hard pressed to find acceptable Mexican food (coming from a town of migrant workers in California, I like to think I know Mexican food fairly well) let alone encountering very many Hispanic communities. But this time around, many of these pockets of Hispanics were in more rural areas, making me wonder about the feelings of those who have lived long term in these areas in seeing the demographic change. I wonder if they felt afraid and responded by tribally to keep out the outsiders. I thought about the rhetoric of Trump and his colleagues and how this has spoken to people seemingly in these types of settings who are pulling up the bridges to keep themselves safe.

Being from a pretty diverse area with a large Mexican and Mexican-American population I can’t imagine having this response to another group of humans entering my community, but scientifically I can understand that it’s evolutionary to react the way they have. And it’s something I want to understand and help overcome. I hope that these specific communities have dealt with it much more graciously than I’ve reckoned, and wouldn’t that be something to learn from.

I can’t say that I feel like I’m in a ‘honeymoon period’ like I’ve been warned of in dealing with reverse culture shock. But I do wonder if, due to our current lifestyles of no jobs and not getting deeply embedded yet into a community, we are experiencing a very surface understanding of American culture not unlike a tourist’s own experience. Because so far everyone is lovely, and the country is beautiful and inviting. But it does feel like there’s an anvil hanging overhead just waiting for the moment to drop, bringing a curtain down that’s covering up a whole lot of garbage.

 

 

Thoughts on America, so far

Moving ‘home’: an introduction

Equipped with the passports of our two home nations (one set which was hot off the press), my family returned to the US this past Wednesday. I look back at myself a week ago, sat in a London cafe not unlike the one I’m in now, reading back on journal entries from the past two or so years. How my heart hurt then. I  wrote like a woman abused by a lover, a lover who could totally do without her but she was unsure if she would survive without the lover. I looked back last week at these entries written about my love/hate for London and knew that this decision to return to the unknown and uncertain States was the right move.

I’m glad I did get to grab that sliver of time to reflect because here, in this cafe today, having come to mull over the theme ‘home’ for a storytelling event I’m taking part in next week, I keep fielding that internal question that has come every day: what the hell have we done. I knew the question would come and I don’t doubt moving has been a mistake, but I am struggling in these early days to know where to find my foothold here. Technology, culture, politics – they’ve all moved on so far out of my grasp. I truly feel like a foreigner in this landscape, however I do feel that I am able to connect to these people as my own. I feel a warmth there as I most always have with Americans in their open, honest and friendly approach. And now, again, I face a question I never stopped getting in 13 years of UK residency: “Why did you move HERE!?” Particularly now, people are a little baffled that at this time in history with so little appearing to be holding people together, why would we move HERE.

I look forward to using every opportunity to write about my experiences as an American returning to the states after so long. All your prayers and well wishes are warmly received!

 

 

Moving ‘home’: an introduction