America is always a shock to the system.
I’ve only been in the country for a day or two, and already I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. It’s been a long day. Leaving Guatemala was not a problem. The airport in Guatemala City is pretty small, and we lucked into a day with virtually no travelers crowding security. Customs was a breeze, we said our goodbyes to William (my boyfriend) at the gate, and were soon on the plane with no issues.
We decided to fly Spirit Airlines to save some cash. If you’ve flown with them before, you know the nitpicky crap they pull on a regular basis. All drinks and snacks are overpriced, seats are cheaply made and squashed together, and fliers are charged for every single thing you can possibly think of. We bought boxed salads in the terminal. It was a few extra dollars per salad if we wanted to bring them onto the plane. Same for bottled water. That kind of thing. Not enough to ruin your travel day, but definitely enough to frustrate you.
Add to the day the fact that we were flying into the U.S.
Of all the places I’ve flown into, I have to say the States are the absolute worst to enter. Always. Without exception. Even as a young white U.S. citizen, who supposedly receives the best and most expedited service available, entering the States is a hideous process. Disorganized lines, customs officials who ask asinine questions that aren’t deemed necessary anywhere else I’ve traveled (though ours was pretty nice this time, even with the 20 questions game), security station after security station…
I’m still not sure what it’s all for. I’m not convinced it truly makes our country any safer, just a heck of a lot more inconvenient and irritating. And what is it with the TSA guys? Good grief. I know there’s some that are great. I’ve met a few, actually. But give a little man a badge, and it seems he’ll wield his power gracelessly. There were a few today whose rudeness was almost incomprehensible to me. Shoving people into line, shouting at anyone who strays, doesn’t walk fast enough, needs a moment to adjust a piece of baggage, etc. It was appalling.
We finished the day off with a gift from Spirit. 45 minutes sitting on the tarmac after landing, waiting for our gate to be vacated, at 11pm. Needless to say, it was a long day.
But oh, did we get a lovely welcome!
We have some of the best friends in the world. Our dear friend Becca Haram (practically a second mother to me) drove three hours to pick us up, waited while we sat on the tarmac, hugged us all, welcomed us back, and had a picnic lunch of cheese, veggies, meat, and a bit of chocolate waiting for us in the car. Amazing. Really amazing. After such a ridiculously long day, and with a three hour drive to go, she made the difference between feeling miserable and exhausted and having a boost of energy to make it the last three hours. What’s cool is that we have friends all over the world who would do the same thing for us without a second thought. So grateful for you all!
So, it’s been six or seven months since I was last in the States. The first few days back are always amusing as I slowly adjust to my surroundings and get used to Western culture again.
There’s a couple of things that’ve been the most striking:
Being able to hear and understand everyone around me is completely overwhelming.
I have this inability to tune sounds out for much more than about fifteen minutes unless I have a book on hand, and it’s exacerbated at the moment by the fact that for the first time in a while, I keep finding myself among crowds of English-speaking individuals. I CAN HEAR EVERYTHING. Also, about five minutes off the plane, I accidentally bumped into a lovely Hispanic woman, causing her to lose her balance. I apologized profusely in Spanish, quite sincerely, and was met with an angry, “B%#ch please, who the f#*k do you think you are?! I was born and raised in f#$%ing TEXAS!!!” Oops. I’m sorry! Not in Guatemala anymore…
Stuff is EXPENSIVE.
Airports are always expensive, but wow. Four salads and three sandwiches. You know, the kind you take out of the fridge that come in ugly little plastic boxes? $84. I about had a heart attack.
Holy Infrastructure, Batman!
This is one of the things I love about the States. Smooth, wide highways; lots of green space; well-constructed buildings; and a general sense of cleanliness and organization that’s lacking in a lot of places around the world. There’s something adventurous and fun about the chaos of Guatemala or Tunisia, but after a while I end up missing the clean and orderly atmosphere of home. Also, whose job is it to mow these long highway stretches of grass?
There are a LOT of cars.
I think I’ve seen more cars in the past day than I saw in the past half year in Guatemala. And they’re nice and clean and really large. Also, drivers give a heck of a lot more space on the road here, which is appreciated.
Awkward, but… Toilet paper.
I spent about 20 seconds in the airport bathroom stall trying to figure out where they’d hid the bin for the toilet paper before I remembered that here you’re supposed to flush it down. And honestly, I’ve done that like five more times since. It just seems so weird. Won’t it clog up or something?
I had a big lovely glass of American milk this morning. It’s so much better than the powdered kind or the boxed milk that lasts for weeks in the tropical heat by some miracle of modern chemistry. Also, Cadbury mini eggs, Steak ’n Shake, TONS of cheese, and Twizzlers. I’m a happy girl.
Thoughts on the States from a newbie.
William is cracking me up. He’s currently in Alabama, visiting his dad. He hasn’t been in the States in four years, and even then it was a short visit to see family. He’s been living in Germany for most of his life, and his observations on life in the U.S. are hilarious. This morning he texted me:
“Woah. You don’t have to light American stoves, apparently… I’d rather have a gas stove. This weird electric monster one I don’t like so much. It has no soul. But it does cook toast faster.”
“So, Dad walks in. I offer him some toast. He seems surprised that I cooked it in the pan. And then points out that we have a toaster right there next to the stove. Not in Guatemala anymore.”
“My butter comes in separately wrapped half-sticks. What is wrong with the world?”
I mentioned that he should try the milk, since it’s different here than anywhere else in the world. “I’m afraid,” he replied. Snigger.
Luckily for us, our old van is still in excellent working order. This afternoon we said a tearful farewell to the Haram family, and began our little road trip. We have family and friends to see, storage boxes to dig into, miles of highway to traverse. It’ll be a fun couple of weeks as we get our feet under us again.
Indiana people, we’ll be having a pizza party this Thursday afternoon at Jan’s Village Pizza (which won the Best Pizza in the Midwest Award a year or two back, by the way). You’re all invited! Here’s the address:
108 S. Union St., Westfield, Indiana 46074