Sometimes a moment will sneak up on you. You’ll be going throughout your day and then as clear as a bell, something dawns on you: You’ve forgotten America.
I remember most of America, I think. I remember what driving was like and my favorite Tv shows. I remember my friends and family and all those bigs things. It’s the little things that get to you, the niggling pieces of anti-information: holes where you brain used to know something about your motherland but now is only blank.
Peace Corps was kind enough to escort me to my banking city this past week, since they were passing through, anyway. As I sat in the car ready to go they reminded me that I needed a seatbelt. Seatbelts? When was the last time I used of those? Click went the buckle as we sped off, and as the bumps and ditches in the road pitched us from side to side I found myself wanting to be in a bush taxi. I wanted three other people crammed into the back of the Honda Civic, packing me so tightly that I could no longer become victim to the poto-poto roads. The air conditioning was really cold, and the seatbelt cut into my neck. The stink of chemically preserved leather hurt my brain, the new car smell overpowered everything. I bobbed and swayed at every piece of hardtrodden road, unable to right myself until we reached smooth tracks of pavement and the boucing stopped. I didn’t know how to ride in a nice car anymore.
Walking back from dinner out with fellow Volunteers later that night we discussed how frustrating it was when resso was out and phones weren’t passing. We noted how genius it was that our phones had torches. We laughed at the Cameroonian bilingual message you get when a number won’t go through (all of us reciting it by heart) and stumbled over what it sounded like in America. We had blanked how voicemail worked, and what it was like to leave a message. We no longer used words like “cell service” or “flashlight”. We had forgotten.
I worry about how much of my home will slip away from me. I watch television shows and sometimes am overwhelmed, especially when it shows big box stores like Walmart or Target, or grocery stores. My grocery stores are piles of bruised tomatoes and dirty carrots sold by mamis in muumuus. The potential of choosing whatever you want for dinner seems extravogant to me now.
For people reading this, next time you’re at the grocery store snack on something in my honor. Get ice cream, a pipedream here, or a big thing of chocolate milk. Munch on chips or make your way to the fancy cheese section and go buck wild. For me, memories of those things are merely wisps of recollection. I think I remember the gist of it all, I really do, but occassionally I’ll realize how far America is from me, both body and soul.
(In lighter news, I’ve updated my address page and wishlist and added a section so you can see just how much I read in this country)