Perhaps the most common question I get these days is, "Are you happy about moving back to the US?"
It's a deceptively simple question. I feel like many people expect me to say 'no', or at least 'mais ou menos' and give some sort of politically or culturally inpsired response about how life outside the US is more inspired/less materialistic/more authentic/more spontaneous/more-or-less whatever. Even with Obama, there is still a lot of stigma associated with the US and the American lifestyle and frankly, I'm over it!
I am very happy to be going back to the US, and although there will certainly be reverse culture shock and the requisite ups and downs, I can't imagine a better next chapter to follow this Mozambican experience.
Here is a little rundown of things - superficial and not - that I'm looking forward to:
1. Reliable emergency response. If you call 911, someone will show up to help you within minutes.
2. Being anonymous, even if for a limited time.
3. Escaping the mulungo identity. Walking down the street, chatting with someone, talking about my life and profession without immediate assumptions being made because I am a White Foreigner.
4. Whole Foods, farmer's markets, specialty food shops.
5. Talented hairdressers.
6. Online shopping, especially Sephora, Overstock, Victoria's Secret and Nordstrom's.
7. CUSTOMER SERVICE.
8. Access to continuing education in any field imaginable.
9. Being able to shop for beads and jewelry supplies on demand.
10. Safe, reliable public transport.
11. Urban bike riding, hiking trails, public parks.
12. Wine tasting in Napa.
13. Cheap tickets on Southwest to visit family and friends. The idea that I can go back to New Mexico for a weekend is incredibly exciting.
14. Having my cousins come to stay with us - the cool aunt and uncle - for a couple weeks.
15. Decorating Casa Cali, even if it means finding a way to work with wood paneling.
16. Veterinary services that are up to par and available 24/7. I am still traumatized by Parceiro's death.
18. Road trips through National Parks.
19. Weather cold enough to merit knee-high boots and overcoats.
20. Do-it-yourself culture.
21. Open discussions about politics, economics and religion.
22. New Mexican food - chile rellenos, enchiladas, sopaipillas, biscochitos.
23. Christmas in the winter, like it's meant to be. :)
24. Our first Christmas tree, complete with all the family ornaments that have been passed down to me over the years.
25. Discovering the endless possibilities of Craigslist.
26. Allowing myself to write more freely about my experiences in and opinions of Mozambique - I've met incredible people through my public blog, and truly enjoyed being a resource for life in Maputo/Moz, however I reached a point where I no longer felt comfortable writing candidly about certin subjects because of my readership. Once in the US, the distance makes it easier to reflect upon certain experiences, as well as perhaps the courage to put my opinions out there, even if they are not 100% "politically correct" or popular.
27. Taking art classes.
28. Starting a proper jewelry business, complete with a website with e-commerce.
29. Foods that I can't find or am unwilling to spend an arm and a leg on here: green chile, blueberries, figs, raspberries, different varieties of cheese, deli meats, toffee, packaged tortillas, multi-grain bread, roasted red peppers...the list is long!
30. Reconnecting with friends. Even with Skype and Facebook, there is something about physical distance that has made several - if not most - of my friendships back 'home' weaken. I look forward to nurturing them again.
32. Thanksgiving with family.
33. No more LAM (Mozambique's national airline, and currently the only option for domestic travel)
34. Speaking Spanish on a regular basis. I fear it's been somewhat compromised by my time in Mozambique.
35. Having more visitors. In my 4+ years here, I can tally my visitors on one hand: my mom, my Brazilian friend Heleno who was living in China, my childhood friend Hallie and her friend Cheryl...and that's it. I realize Moz is an expensive and complicated destination, but I also feel that a lot of people simply weren't interested in visiting or were concerned (about perceived health risks, lack of development, etc.) Already for our house in Casa Cali we have 4 visitors lined up!
36. Getting to know our neighbors and neighborhood. Becoming part of a community.
37. Feeling like I 'belong', even though I am aware this is an elusive concept for me. Still, there is something about returning to your home country that helps further define your identity, your sense of community, your sense of roots.
38. Being able to register and open a business in 1 week.
39. A justice system that works, contracts that can be enforced, infractions that are punished regardless of the person's influence or wealth. Yes, there is a flip side to this all in the lack of 'jeitinho' and spontaneity, but there are many, many benefits to rules and systems that are clear and enforced.
40. Nia classes.
41. Pilates studios.
42. Beaches that are not used as collective toilets or contaminated by sewage.
43. Being 20 minutes away from my mom's house.
44. Internet that is fast enough to download tv episodes and watch videos on You Tube uninterrupted.
45. Witnessing and participating in a culture of entrepreneurship, pride, hard work and optimism...even in the face of severe economic crisis and personal/financial setbacks.
46. Camping with my dad.
47. Meeting blog friends in 'real life'.
48. Driving on the left again, and finally learning how to properly f'ing parallel park!!
49. Dishwashers and clothes dryers.
50. Being proud to be American. It's been a long road through teenage cultural identity issues and nomadic wanderings in my 20's, but I've come full circle. I'm excited to be in the US without the feeling that I want to be someone or somewhere else. Yes, the urge to travel and experience life in far-flung places will remain - it's in my blood - but it is also incredibly nice to find peace in coming Home.