A few weeks ago, I read quote along the lines of "the point of travelling is not to be a foreigner in a foreign land, but to return to your homeland as a foreigner." Having returned to America after two years in Swaziland, I assure you, that is very much the case. As such, I would like to describe the top six things which have stood out to me over the past two days as points of major culture shock, which I am currently experiencing in my homeland.
- TELEVISION: I'm not sure if I got just a little bit too used to SABC (South African Broadcast Company) or Swazi TV, but American broadcast television (we don't have cable or satellite) is just bizarre. Infomercials, the extent of repetitive reality TV... I don't know why it's bizarre, but it just is. I haven't seen the United Auto Insurance commercial in a while, and it freaked me out. In other news, apparently if you have had a bladder sling and it has gone wrong, they want you to call their 800 number... I'm already yearning for the South African commercials.
- TRAFFIC: In America, it's so much more organized, and somehow that makes it that much scarier. In Swaziland, if they have an intersection, one road will go, and then the other. Here, they've got these massive systems of lights and signals and lanes and turn lanes and straight lanes, so that everyone is still driving all the time. I practically had a panic attack yesterday, half because I'm used to driving on the left and everything is backwards here, and half because there were a million cars going every direction when I thought only one side of the road should be driving!
- FENCES: There are none here. Anybody who has ever lived practically anywhere in southern Africa will understand how weird it is that there aren't any here. No barbed wire, no Inyatsi Security signs, no nothing.
- FOOD: It's not a joke. American food is over-sized, over-processed, and kind of weird. The sugar has all these tiny white grains, compared to the big brown grains from the less-processed sugarcane in Swaziland. The pizzas are massive, maybe three or four times those from SD. Cookies are too perfect, and everything strikes me as just being a little bit not-food-ish. Even the vegetables are weirdly shiny. I scrubbed a pepper for twenty minutes yesterday, and then decided not to eat it, because it was just too polished.
- AMERICA IS A GHOST TOWN: There are literally no people outside. I know that it's cold, but there's not that much snow, and even when it's pouring rain outside there are people around in Swaziland. Even in summer, people aren't outside here. It's bizarre. It's like the aliens have come and abducted everyone in America except for me... and then I see a car drive by. But still, there's nobody outside here.
- BOILING WATER: Strangely enough, the electric kettles that we use in Swaziland are faster at boiling water than using the metal kettle and the stove like I do here. My tea takes forever, and I feel impatient. Just so you know that Swaziland is more efficient than America, in at least one area.
And that's my list. There are many more, as I'm sure my mother will tell you... apparently I've been walking around the house like someone who has grown up underground and is seeing the sky for the first time in forever.