By now, the cat’s out of the bag— I’m home in Maine! For good. For now… ha! I’m glad, though. I miss my students and all the wonderful people I met in Thailand, of course, but I’m happy to be home.
Many people have asked me how it feels to be back. They ask, “Is it weird? Do you have reverse culture shock?”
Honestly? A little. But, really, no. Even though I've done some traveling, I've lived in the same place most of my life. It's always easy to come back to. It’s a part of me, in a way. I can drive the roads with my eyes closed. I can taste the freshness in my mom’s healthy, home cooked food. I can feel the warmth from the fire in my dad’s wood stove. I can greet my local grocery cashier by name, know the best spot to grab a bite to eat, and find comfort in knowing my friends are just a short drive away.
Being home, you relish the little things…
I love going up to a cashier at a grocery store and being able to interact with them, rather than feeling a pain of anxiety knowing I can’t understand what they’re saying. Even when cashiers in Thailand did speak to me, all I could respond was “Chai, ka” (yes) or “Mai chai, ka” (no). Most interactions would involve me standing there, throwing out one of these phrases in a desperate attempt to pretend like I knew what they were saying.
If I had to guess, most conversations ended up like this:
Cashier (speaking in Thai): Did you find everything okay?
Me: Mai chai, ka… (no?)
Cashier (speaking in Thai): Do you have a membership number?
Me: Chai, ka… (yes, but I didn’t actually have a membership number, and I wouldn’t know how to say it correctly even if I did. Oy.)
It’s petty, but I missed being able to read menus and actually know what I want to order. In Thailand, while most menus, thankfully, had pictures, I still didn’t know what I was eating sometimes. I remember pointing to a picture of (what looked like) a stir-fried noodle dish with egg and ending up with a rice dish with pork. Still delicious, but unexpected. The “point-and-guess” method worked better in open markets when I could see all the different food options in front of me. Even then, though, it was still a bit of a mystery. Brown meat in some sort or spicy sauce with mixed vegetables? Sure, sounds good.
Of course, nothing beats being able to spend time with my family and friends in person. Skype, Facetime, and Facebook video chat are all wonderfully useful tools for communicating, but they aren’t the same as physically being with the people you love.
“It's a big world, full of things that steal your breath and fill your belly with fire. But where you go when you leave isn't as important as where you go when you come home.”
― Lindsay Eagar
Aside from these small moments I’m thankful for every day, I’m also looking forward to applying a fresh perspective to my hometown. Portland alone has changed so much since I’ve been away, and I’m more than excited to explore the eclectic foodie and craft brewery city it’s become.
I'm still not sure where life will take me, but I’m excited, ready, and open to what’s next.
Thank you all for following along. Stay tuned for more adventures!