05 June 2007

One Year On

Well, it's been a year this last weekend last month (I've been lazy with this reflecting business) since I moved to DC, and a year and a month two months since I walked across that bridge from Matamoros in Mexico to El Paso. What has happened in this last year, the year of our return, the year of the homecoming? To preface, it had been four years since I had lived here, and five since J had. It's not like we had been exiled for forty years, but still, it's interesting to come home after so long away. It gives you an ability to see what you might have missed before. It is not always pleasant, but neither are we. We, as a people, are as much the sum of our flaws as the sum of our virtues. The emotional tint of our shared reality had disappeared, because when I got back, it was no longer a shared reality. Now of course, I enjoy an evening of jew-baiting before driving my hummer home and writing a check to the Republican party. See? The east coast isn't so different.

Crossing the border, we had come up from Monterrey by bus. We took an old school bus painted pink from the bus station to the border check point, and sat down to have one last coke from a glass bottle and smoke one last cigarette before crossing the border (sorry mom). We'd been living out of backpacks for over a year at that point. I would like to say that I was emotionally attached to my backpack and my nomadic way of life, but really I wanted to tip the contents into an incinerator and sit on a couch and watch TV for a couple of days. Still, it was sad to sit there and imagine that it was all over, that it would be the last day of this adventure. Plus, my palms were sweating because I was going to ask J to be my husband/partner/what-ever-the-kids-are-calling-it-these-days and thought my head was going to explode. I think I feel more sad about it now then I did then. I was really looking forward to seeing my brother L and the lovely K, and J and I were both VERY excited about using their washing machine, getting haircuts, buying some non-travel related clothes, and eating cheese. So much cheese we ate.

Dear Asia: learn about cheese. You'll thank me.

The border control agent on the US side didn't even bother opening my passport. He just asked me how long I had been in Mexico, and if I had any booze. He was very concerned with my booze consumption, not so much with the positively identifying me as a citizen. Hm. Well, whatever. If we quit buying washing machines, the terrorists win anyway, so might as well let this slide. We arrived in Brownsville and checked into our Red Roof Inn.

I'm going to need you to go ahead and show me your booze. Also, before I allow you back into the country, you'll have to buy a washing machine. On credit. At an unwise interest rate.

My brother had previously apologized over the phone profusely that this was a cheap, crappy place and they were sorry it wasn't nicer, but that it was only for one night, and they hoped it would be ok. When the door swung open on our sterilized palace, J and I laid on the huge, clean beds and laughed that we could ever think that this wonderland of free soap and clean sheets and spotless white towels and cable tv and air conditioning could be roughing it. We jumped on the beds, showered in the bathroom that was clean enough to eat off of, shaved, and generally tried to scrape off the dirt of the last couple months. Then we ordered pizza and drank beer laying on fresh, white sheets. Can you see that I was slightly obsessed with clean sheets? And hot water! So much endless hot water!

The last year has been that first afternoon in that hotel over and over. Somethings were things I was excited to come home to (wine, cheese, driving cars), and somethings I was less welcome to see (overconsumption, Redneck Ignorance, not-seeing-the-forest-for-the-trees-GO-USA!). It's been an adjustment, to both DC and to the United States. The lessons I learned this year? We engage in a lot of navel gazing. We like to talk about God, but not really pay attention to what he might be instructing us to do. Advertising is taking over our country. Safeway is the best grocery store, ever. Americans think the world likes us a lot more than they actually do. No one is sure what the American Dream really means anymore. We have a higher standard of living than we think we do, and a much lower quality of life than we should. We are so rich our money runs off our backs, slips off of our skin, drops from our pockets: we have more than any place I have ever been. We should remember that.

It's good to be home, though. I missed chocolate-chip cookies.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny that you crossed from Mexico into the US and yet were in a town called Brownsville. No? Well I thought it was.

the princess said...

I just finished a lovely meal of Cowgirl Creamery cheese, bread, and cottage cheese. yes, I am getting fat, but, yes, I am even more addicted to cheese after having lived in Japan.
Coming home is hard...but there are so many positives and negatives to both sides that it's hard to say what's better.