I returned back to San Francisco on July 18 but it became evident to me that although I was leaving Indonesia, it was not leaving me. After a 7 hour layover in Tokyo, I boarded my flight bound for home. I slowly filed on, stopping behind passengers awkwardly hoisting bags into the overhead bin and found my seat, right next to a young man from Sumatera, Indonesia.
Jacques collected me from the airport. It was around 11 A.M. on a Saturday and as I was more hungry than tired, we went to Universal Café for brunch, a favorite. While waiting to be seated, I overheard a group of girls speaking Bahasa Indonesia who were also waiting to be seated. It took me a moment to realize that it was out of place: unexpected but through habit and history of the past 10 months it somehow felt normal. Ah Indonesia, there will be no escaping you.
People have asked me over the past two weeks "Have you had any reverse culture shock?" My answer thus far is "not much, really." I've come home to the same apartment, same neighbors, caught up with most of my friends, and am enjoying all the food I've been away from for so long. So in returning, I think I can break down my reintegration process into two parts: "Things I'm grateful for now that I'm back" and "Little things I notice in a different way" as nothing really shocks me here, but there's always something to notice.
Top things that I am grateful for on my return:
- Hot showers
- Drinkable tap water
- Daily conversations with my honey
- No power outages
- Eves dropping on English conversations
- Catching up with friends in person
- My favorite coffee shops that I can WALK to
- Sidewalks designed for pedestrians
- Indian food, Pizza, fresh salads
- Conversations with my cat
- No ants, rats, mosquitoes (okay I lied, I was bit by a mosquito yesterday..)
- No mosques waking me early in the morning
- Yoga classes, the swimming pool and a full gym
- Fast internet
Things I notice in a new way (AKA things I'd forgotten about):
- Gratuitous complaining by westerners ( which I'm realizing is a way people tend to bond -- through misery)
- Being woken early in the morning by my cat demanding food
- Cold foggy summer weather
- Young teenage couples embracing on the escalator in the BART station (something I've forgotten was so normal here)
- The price for eating lunch out
- Political clipboard holders on practically every corner asking for donations
- Impatience of my fellow westerners (in lines –queues, traffic lights, crowds, internet speed)
- Junk mail
And the greatest culture shock of all in coming home: The budget crisis and how it is affecting education, jobs, our parks, the already sparse and dwindling social services.