Monday, April 11, 2011

The Motherland

I’ve been meaning to write a new blog post for a while now, but I haven’t actually been able to succeed because I don’t know where to begin. But here’s a start: I’m back in the States now!!!

We spent our last week abroad in Addo, a small town on the Eastern Cape known for Addo Elephant National Park, as well as its manifold citrus groves. We were told that we were staying in student lodging in the park, so I was picturing cabins with outhouses and electricity if we were lucky. But when we arrived at Chrislin African Lodge, I was pleasantly surprised. We stayed, paired up, in luxury thatch-roofed mud huts. They were adorable. And the grass lawns everywhere were perfect for my affinity for going barefoot. We went on safaris in a few different private game reserves as well as the national park; hiked, with some added cliff jumping and waterfall sliding, in the Zuurberg Mountains; canoed down a river; visited a reptile and raptor center; and much more. When we returned after our packed days, we were treated to delicious three-course dinners every night. I got to eat kudu, ostrich, and impala meat. Kudu was definitely my favorite. And to name some of the animals I saw: giraffes, rhinos, elephants, zebras, hippos, cheetahs, lions, a leopard, a caracal, meerkats, warthogs, buffalo, antelope (kudu, rare heartabeest, impala, and more,) tortoises, and alligators. I definitely felt like I was in an amusement park, looking at trained animals. But it was still awesome.

Boarding the plane back to America, I was sad to leave, but anxious to return home. When I had to go through a million layers of extra security measures solely because our flight was to the US, I was reminded of the big bureaucracy that I was about to fly back to. On the 19 hour flight from Johannesburg to JFK, emotions were running wild—fatigue and dehydration supercharged them even further. I knew we were getting close to landing when I saw Alex in the seat in front of me spontaneously squeal, waving her arms and jumping around in her seat. We were all so incredibly excited to see our families and be on American soil again. I can’t even describe how happy I was when I hugged my Mom at the Riverside Tower Hotel a few hours later. The rest of the weekend was free, and I had the most amazing time with my Mom and grandparents.

I’m experiencing some reverse culture shock. It’s a very real thing. Everyone speaks English and I have a cell phone and computer again and I can eat any kind of food I want. You’ve gotta give it to America—we do have diversity. After being in countries where solely one or two races predominate, we really do seem like a melting pot.

Last week was spent in New York City, visiting the UN and various organizations that work in areas ranging from the environment to public health. Some of them were really impressive.

We left New York yesterday morning and boarded a double decker megabus (equipped with wifi…what?!?!?) to D.C. We’re safe and sound in our rented house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood now, and I’m really excited for the upcoming week!

I admit that I do harbor a general distaste with America’s policy and culture. And the bureaucracy and complications and nonsense that accompany it all. But being back after so long has made me realize that while it’s not perfect, it’s my home.

It’s good to be back.

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