I have now been back in the United States for two months. During our family vacation/forced hiatus waiting for my new job in Botswana to start, we have enjoyed all the perks of being American in two different states and half a dozen cities.
After eight weeks of excess, I can confidently report that I am over the following:
How much kids’ meals cost. (I swear before I moved to Africa this was three bucks. Now it seems like it is $7.99.)
How much everything costs.
Google maps. (Makes me lazy.)
Too much TV.
On the other hand, I am still infatuated by the these aspects of America after enjoying them since mid-November:
Winter fruit–delicious local pears and apples in particular.
Living Christmas trees. There is nothing like that scent.
Not waiting in line for longer than two minutes, anywhere, except at Disneyland.
Ready-made kale salads that you just pop into a bowl along with little sachets of perfectly measured dressing.
Not needing cash, ever.
Amazing Asian and Mexican food.
And of course, the best treat of all: spending time with family and friends.
It’s easier to live in the U.S. in so many ways: life is optimized here to be as efficient as possible (multiple customer service reps at every shop, gas stations open all night, stores where you can buy everything from carrots to a camping tent: I’m looking at you, Target). But it’s also very busy, and people are very, very busy, and things seem very far away from one another so that you spend a lot of your time in your car with nothing but the aloof tones of Siri in lieu of meaningful conversation.
But the hardest thing of all? Choices. The amount of choice Americans have in their consumer products seems to have exploded even in the last four years while I have been living in Africa. I am dizzy with the options: stammering out my best guess for a chai latte (spicy/sweet/regular/large/nonfat/lowfat/full fat/almond/soy?), taking way too long to order in restaurants, standing very still in my puffy coat in grocery aisles trying to take in the sheer number and variety of bagels.
There is so much here. It is wonderful, but it takes energy to choose. The number of choices also tricks you into thinking maybe you need that much, even though I am perfectly happy most days with the exactly one type of bagel consistently available in all of Gaborone: the simple white, sesame one they serve in a sandwich at my favorite outdoor cafe Sanitas.
Someday, hopefully soon (although we don’t know exactly when), we will head back to our normal lives and house in Botswana, where we will celebrate with a giddy jump into the pool and I will put these days of winter coats, hats, scarfs, and boots behind me with relief. (I’ve never lived in a cold climate with kids. I think it increases the inconvenience level by a factor of ten.) My daughter will go back to school (here’s hoping that her missing the beginning of kindergarten isn’t creating an insurmountable education gap), and my son will start speaking more Ndebele instead of English again. We will miss all the pleasures of this amazing country, our United States of America, but we will be glad to be home too where things are a little quieter. Wish us luck until then!