On Monday I hopped in a taxi, went to the Quito airport, hung around for a while with another PCV, flew to Panama, and flew to Chicago to visit the family for the holidays. It was a trip I'd been looking forward to since August.
But right from the start, things were not quite as I expected them to be. Some things haven't changed, like the super awesome and friendly welcome my small group of people received from a TSA woman, my very first American in America in more than 10 months. Oh wait, this is Chicago. And it's the TSA. And it was nighttime, which must have some influence on peoples' moods. Anyway, her welcome was less than cordial...in fact, it was sort of scary how she snapped at us all and made us walk backwards through the maze of empty aisles we'd just wandered through the wrong way...and gave me a bad taste for what was to come. "How long were you in Ecuador?" "Hmm...since February." [flicked eyes up at me with face still down] "Why exactly were you there so long?" [explained] "Welcome to the United States," with a monotone voice as she waved the next person down.
Things weren't obviously strange for me, except all the signs were subconsciously easy to read and overhearing conversations is a lot easier without even thinking about it. There's a lot of food and a lot of things very easily accessible. But suddenly now that I had my enormous list of exciting food possibilities at my fingertips, I hardly wanted anything.
We've been to a few stores now for various errands... one of my top chores was to get a replacement digital camera, meaning some giant store like Best Buy or Target. But for this time of year, they were empty. The streets are kind of quiet - the only real interaction I've had so far with Americans outside of the house has been with a couple waiters. The sky is gray with clouds high above us, not floating around the mountaintops like where I live to at least give a sense of depth and dynamism. All the trees are dormant and the grass is dead, no bright snow to cover anything up. In all, it feels very, very strange. Driving along today, I realized that now I feel more isolated than I ever have realized. American life is isolated. And so I felt kind of sad about it all, suddenly, and wondered if I would ever adjust back to how it was before. In Ecuador I felt stifled sometimes by how seemingly intrusive Ecuadorians are, but here I feel so alone.
So...what is it I want? What is best?
Also, I got sick again with a really bad cough and a fever. Horray! Sick during vacation. Leave it to me.