I haven’t blogged much the last 6 months – for a number of reasons including my workload, and the stress related to moving my partner and dog across the ocean. I also didn’t recognize the country I moved back to at all – confirmed by the election results in early November, and I didn’t fully prepare myself for reverse culture shock.
I forgot how hard it was to move back – especially to a different American culture. I’m still baffled by the small things like gas station dinners (ribs, potatoes and corn… not nachos and corn dogs), the limited availability of … well anything that’s not BBQ or boutique, and the general politeness that characterizes every interaction. I still struggle with the big things – lack of affordable or adequate health care, pervasive racial tension, and an economic system which punishes the poor.
Making friends was harder than I thought, so I decided to take the situation into my own hands. I started working out with a personal trainer… essentially I began paying people to talk to me – and I’m okay with that. My fitness goals are on track, and for the hardest 3 months I had weekly face to face interaction with humans who were not my students, the liquor store clerk, my friend who drank with me over FaceTime, or my mom who calmly fielded every stress ridden phone call.
I also joined a 5k running club (even though I love people, I loathe running with them) long enough to earn a friend who puts up with me, and reminds me of the goodness of people. We haven’t hit our running goals, but that’s not really what it’s about most days. It’s venting about jobs, relationship stress, and sharing TV recommendations.
I’m working out of the culture shock… literally. Returning to the U.S. has been hard – made easier by a lot of people who are looking out for me – but it’s a work in progress and we will see where it goes from here.
5 years ago I was packing to go to the Gulf under some pretty precarious circumstances… by that I mean it was the night before my flight to Manama, and I hadn’t packed anything, and may or may not have been under the influence of a bottle of expensive white wine that the restaurant gifted us at ladies night.
To put it one way, with the intention of leaving for a year I had a bag filled with less than 20 pounds of various items. To put it another way, I had not idea what I was doing and some how only packed one pair of shoes, which ended up being totally inappropriate for sandy marble and were quickly replaced.
Fast forward to three major international moves, and I’d like to think I’ve gotten a lot better about it – usually I’m packed a few days before hand. The last few moves I’ve planned meticulously what I might need, and what I don’t have any need for.
Now though, I’m three weeks out of a move back to the US and I haven’t even started. A lot about this move feels like the first one to Bahrain…there is a fleeting, temporary quality about it. It doesn’t feel like this is the big move – the one where you put your feet down and settle in. This feels like the next adventure, thanks to the knowledge that this contract is finite to some extent.
I’m down to one month left in Doha, before heading stateside. I seem to be hovering in the “I have so much to do, I’ll just take a nap” mode, and “I’ve never been so productive in my life” mode. The balance at the moment does not exist.
One of the challenges I have is that I am essentially starting over. Aside from a few well loved coffee mugs, lots of persian rugs, and my passport, I don’t really have anything to my name. This is made all the more difficult that Barry and I will be operating two households an ocean apart.
So here we are, I’m trying to make a budget while keeping in mind that I know there will be dozens of items that I forget about along the way. The corkscrew and wine glasses have already made the list… wine glasses are versatile… you can drink water out of them if you have to. Hangers are on there too.
How tacky would it be to solicit donations?
Anyone have advice on starting over?