State-Side Once Again

Trip Start May 02, 2007
Trip End Jul 03, 2007

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Flag of United States  , New York
Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ah, back in the states. I guess there weren't nearly as many obvious adjustments to make as I expected there would be. It felt pretty normal to be back. Part of the problem is that I suffer from a bit of culture shock each time I come back to Westchester as it is - from San Francisco. So coming back here from Africa wasn't all too different. Lots of eating disordered older women in giant SUV's with plastic bodies dressed in exercise clothing. You know - the usual.

One of the main differences and the one I am still not adjusted to is water. I am still spitting constantly while I shower to prevent even a drop from getting into my mouth. Unnecessary here! Tap water - good to drink. Ice cubes - not a problem. Raw vegetables - should be fine. Having good drinking water is such a luxury I never thought about before. I mean, sure, I hear about it as a problem in third world countries all of the time, but it really it surprising how much of your time and psyche is occupied by thoughts of water when you're traveling. When will I be able to buy more, will it be good, will I get sick (again), etc. I got a terrible parasite when I was away that really was traumatizing. A good dose of Cipro and away it went, but still. No fun. It's not like there are nice clean bathrooms with toilet paper there!

The other noticeable difference is space. We like a lot of space. Space in our homes, space in our cars, space when we walk, when we sit, how we interact. The Dala-dala's are the rectangular Toyota mini-van type vehicles used for local transportation in Tanzania. They can fit 18 people. What they do is add another bench and squeeze in 26. 26 people!!!! These are NOT large vehicles - I'd feel claustrophobic every time I saw them pass by. Truly sardines. Of course Americans couldn't do that because we're too large. Even if we could, we wouldn't. Fights would break out! I've seen it before on San Francisco public buses because someone is too close to someone else or accidentally touched them. These people are squished against each other, yet look completely relaxed. The houses here are also very large. Not just the large Westchester Mansions, but even the smaller houses. We have an assumed right to privacy and if we can afford it, give each member of the family their own room. It's such decadence. Then each house needs to have as much land around it as possible. High ceilings. The whole 9.

We as Americans just have a very large buffer zone around us - which I happen to really like.

So lessons learned: who knows. I don't know. I've thought a lot about it, and I just am not sure what if any change will come of this trip. I want to go back to school for either international policy work or research biology. Probably the latter. This won't be possible for a number of years though, I definitely can't afford it now. Sugar daddy? Anyone?

The one thing that was apparent though is that in places like East Africa individuals can make a difference. I don't ever feel like that here. Sure, I give money to non-profits. I call my senators when Move On or Act for Change tells me to. I send countless emails to politicians urging them not to vote for whatever bill. I don't feel like it's helping though. I just do it because other people tell me it helps. In Africa you can go to a tiny village, and see the water pump someone donated making a huge difference. The doctor that Campi Ya Kanzi hired to help the Maasai of the Chyulu Hills. A donated vehicle, a water tank, condom education. Granted, some help can be well-intentioned but misguided and detrimental. I definitely want to return at some point to be involved in a project helping people. If people who have the means each just helped one village out, even if it's just building a new school building, many many people would be living slightly easier lives. 

At my grandmother's unveiling a few days ago the rabbi said that we keep peoples memories alive and honor their spirit by our action and our aspiration.
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