Monday, August 31, 2009

Things I Am Looking Forward to in the US

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.


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.

17. Bookstores!

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.

31. Halloween.

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.


Teej said...

Ah, I got excited just reading your list! What a wonderful time you guys will have.

nola said...

I laughed at how many of the things on your list aren't possible in New Orleans ... we really are third world.

Enjoy your return!

Brandie said...

I definitely understand so many of the points on your list, but I have to say that the last one really struck home. This is also the first time I've lived in the U.S. and not had the feeling of wanting to be somewhere else. And even though I still definitely have the wander bug, it's nice to feel at home where I'm CURRENTLY located! I can't wait to read more about your last days in Moz and particularly your new days back in the US.

Meg said...

I love your post. It reminds me of the ground-kissing gratitude I felt when I got back to the US after being in Panama.

I think convenience is the hallmark of American living. It makes us lazy, it makes us fat, but OH BOY I love it. Love it.

Laura said...

What a great list!!! I've been living in Moz for six years and people always ask why I like going to SA. My first response - anonymity! And I wrote in my "Six Years" blog how I'd like to not be "the white foreigner" every where I go. I could identify with so many things on your list, savor them all!

Anonymous said...

muito interessante o blog...
well i thing that not only the foreigners get to be foreign in maputo. this is my home but thats never stopped them calling me mumungo.
so we dont have craigslist, and responsive 911, spanish or tortillas.. mayb its coz u got to see that side of the world that u feel the need of it.. but still, with all (less) we have, its possible to care for this racist, filthy, beautiful, smelly, kindhearted, illiterate people.
im sure that once u set foot in usa verá um mar de rosas and and endless list of good things. with time, u will even ask how in God's name did u survive for so long without jelly donuts.
as for me, i will keep track of ur point of view thru time/location.
just please take in to consideration on your posts: AS FASCINATING AS IT SOUND, U R NOT REFLECTING MAPUTO AS IT IS, BUT MERELY WHAT YOU SEE THAT IT IS.. a post when diminishing something that doent not benefit you might turn out to be fun and relifing..doesnt make it true.
it might be ok for u to post about our chapas and condom selling children, if only taken into consideration their look on the matter.
keep well.

Stacie said...

Number 47!!!! Can't wait to meet you!

poppy fields said...

Good list! I can't wait to read your next chapters :)
I hope the Moz goodbyes won't be too hard.