Thursday, December 9, 2010

Heading down south to the land of the pine, I'm thumbing my way into North Caroline...

I've been home about 24 hours, but things are weird. It's a combination of jet lag, climate change, and reverse culture shock that leaves me feeling like the past 3 months were just some great dream that I have woken up from. It's crazy to get on a plane in 80 degree weather, fly for a solid day without any sleep and almost solid sunlight the whole time, then step off into 20 degree weather and darkness. I carried my bags, shivering, through the hallway and into the airport at RDU. It was as deserted at 7:30 at night as it was at 4:30 in the afternoon it had been the day I left 3 months ago. Decorated only slightly for the season, it was weird to be here. Familiar, but still not home. I followed sign to baggage claim, turned a corner, and spotted my dad with a very blond woman that I quickly recognized as mom standing at the end of a long hallway. Since they were so far away, I waved from the distance to acknowledge that I had seen them. As I approached, I swallowed hard; the combination of no sleep and not seeing them for 3 months was making me feel like I was going to cry. I distracted myself by looking at the floor and managed to greet them with hugs without breaking down. We went on search for the baggage claim, and like every airport I had been in that day, things seemed to be under construction. We finally found the bag downstairs, and dad carried it, complaining all the way to the car that it weighed 80 pounds. Mom gave me a huge coat to wear out into the unusually cold weather, and we all walked across the parking lot to the car. We loaded in, and with Dad again grumbling about their being no signs for the exit out of the parking lot, I settled into the back seat. Yep, now I'm home.

Things I will miss
Hearing my name spoken in an Australian accent (I can't describe it. The "r" sounds fabulous)
And the words "girls" and "good"
Actually, hearing the accent at all
Their Milk and all dairy products
The freedom of traveling
Meeting new people from all over the world
The chocolate
The wine

If I ever, No, WHEN I return to Australia, things I will do:
See all of Tasmania, because the small part I saw was great
Broken Hill and other desert towns
Bungles Bungles
More time to explore in Broome, Melbourne and Perth
Climb the Harbour Bridge (ran out of time and money this time)
Visit all of my surrogate families all over Australia

Things I didn't expect:
The weird fashion trend of black leggings, especially in cities
Katy Perry following me EVERYWHERE
Not being able to find kangaroo offered on any menus unless you specifically seek it out
The friendliness of total strangers
The willingness of people who had never even met me before to take me into their homes and make me part of the family
The US giving Aussie TV our crappiest TV shows (for the most part)
I LOVE kangaroo! (steak!!)

Food I missed big time from home that I didn't expect:
Mexican food (well, I did expect, but not this much)
American hamburgers (I'm not crazy about Aussie burgers)

One thing I did learn, well not really learn, but had reaffirmed for me, is that there are wonderful, thoughtful, intelligent, kind people all over the world, and I met a whole mess of them on the trip. It was great to experience other cultures and see just how alike we really are.

Another thing I had affirmed for me was that despite what a lot of countries and people want you to believe, America does not have the end-all, be-all claim on idiocy, selfishness, rudeness, and ignorance. This trip really made me realize, which was not it's original purpose, how great my country is. I loved Australia, and still might live here someday, but I love America too. It's a shame at this period in time that I can't be patriotic for America like I see Canadians and Germans and Italians and other countries being, without subjecting myself to attacks. I was thinking about it in Broome when I saw a man check in. I noticed his lack of accent, and he was going upstairs with his bags. He had multiple Canadian flag patches all over his bags, signaling to everyone that he was Canadian, and proud of it, and don't you dare confuse him for American. I can't do that. Well, I could, but not in the way the Canadian can. No one is going to approach him and hassle him for being Canadian, or even a patriotic Canadian. I don't want to get too negative about it, or discourage Americans to travel. On the contrary, I want us to go out into the world and prove them wrong. Show them how intelligent, thoughtful, innovative, conscientious, and globally minded we can be. And be aware of this when you travel. Be ambassador for us. Go and show the world who you are, and meet the world and learn about it as well. The worst response would be to close in on ourselves.

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