“Welcome back” is what the customs officer told me after I showed him my passport at the JFK airport.
I was happy to feel welcomed into my country, but the words cut through me, their sharpness forcing me to face the reality that I was now physically in the United States. My mind hadn’t made it yet and was somewhere in limbo over the Atlantic Ocean.
First impressions? You’re not going to be thrilled, nor surprised. Americans are an enormous, babbling, cheeseburger-eating, and poorly dressed species who have nothing to say but insist on constantly making conversation with everyone they meet. The stereotypes are true.
Whew, it feels good to get that sentiment out there.
I must add that the first thing I did after finding my gate at the airport was to buy a cheeseburger at Wendy’s.American blood runs thick, but the sandwich was slightly disappointing.
The JFK airport was loud. It was loud to the point where I couldn’t concentrate on finding my terminal on the “Departures” screen because I felt like everyone around me was infiltrating my brain with their personal conversations, their voices echoing in my brain like nails on chalkboard. There’s nothing worse than being able to understand what everyone around you is saying when you'd prefer not to. I actually started to cry, which might also have been due to fatigue, loneliness, hunger, and a desire to see my family.
The first week back has been fun, I’m not going to lie, but I’m also not going to sugar coat the fact that I feel resistant to assimilating back into this culture, and I hope that the people around me can understand. I didn’t spend a year in Paris to come back here and fit in. Excusez-moi.
After the first night in my own bed, I woke up, shuffled to the bedroom door, opened it, and lost my equilibrium. This door is ENORMOUS! Seriously, it is. And later, when I cleaned my ears the exact same thought ran through my head about the Q-tips. Then again when I sat on the couch, drove a car, ate a meal, watched TV, and people-watched at a Subway restaurant. Everything is bigger in… America.
So here I am after a week’s worth of initiation into the country of processed food, patriotism, political ads, peanut butter, and dreams. I plan to maintain my introspective writing skills in tip-top shape by continuing my blogging about my experiences as an expatriate on the journey of repatriation. Hope you’re not sick of me yet!