I knew it would be hard, there’s no doubt about that. I was prepared for it to take a while, but I wasn’t prepared for this.
After two years living in Ghana, I came back to America a very different person. My habits, attitude, and demeanor are simply not the same as the girl who left Oklahoma in October 2011. And it turns out the new and improved version is scaring my mom. Why? Because I have a tendency to zone out suddenly. I’ll become still and silent staring into space for long periods of time. Apparently this is unnerving for Americans. Ghana taught me to cherish silence since it was the ultimate luxury, but Americans don’t feel the same way. I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just not talking.
Then there is the talking. This was the thing I feared the most about returning. How on earth can I relate to anyone anymore? When someone talks about life here in America, whether it is local gossip, the price of gas, or what to do that day, I can’t help but feel indifferent. Everything seems so mundane. Why even bother discussing it? Why does it matter? What matters is improving cashew farmers access to trainings and resources. Or improving the health of villagers who are most at risk for acquiring deadly tropical diseases. Or improving the quality of teachers, so that when kids go to school they actually learn. That’s what I want to talk about, not who is going to win Dancing with the Stars.
I can’t help but I feel judgmental when I have these thoughts. I’m not right, it’s just what I’m used to. Talking about TV and the locals isn’t wrong, it’s just different. I just don’t have patience for it, not right now.
Waiting hours for a tro to fill just so you can go 100km is painful, but it teaches you patience, humility, and how to determine whether or not you really need to pee. Sitting at the bank for hours just to withdraw your money teaches you patience, anger management, and just how awesome ATMs are. All that patience training did not prepare me for dealing with Americans again. They have no patience, none whatsoever. If a line has two people in it, it’s the end of the world. If you have to wait at a light twice, it’s the end of the world. If you have to drive out of the way to get somewhere, it’s the end of the world. It’s driving me insane. I’ve become impatient with people who are impatient. I want to scream at everyone who can’t wait an extra few seconds or minutes. How will it change anything being upset that you have to wait? Channel that anger elsewhere, send it to the taxi drivers in Ghana.
Then there is the complaining, which I realize I’m doing right now. I just can’t handle it. Nothing is ever right or good enough for Americans. Something has to have a flaw, otherwise what’s there to talk about? I realize that I’m coming from a completely different perspective than the vast majority of people I encounter. Everything is a luxury and a privilege for me now. You mean I’m allowed to drive a car? I don’t have to wait for a taxi? I can use all the internet I want and take showers all day? But why can’t Americans be happy with what they have? I guess most people don’t realize what they have is wonderful.
How do I relate to normal Americans again? How do I not come off as a smug Returned Peace Corps Volunteer? I’m working on it, but it isn’t easy.
And that’s just part of my readjustment. Add in the stress of looking for a job, trying to figure out where to live, and battling being smallsmall sick and you have one hell of a welcome home. Can I go back now?