You know, when I came up with the title for this blog (Same Planet, Different Worlds) I will admit, I chose it partly for its sensational flair. It does sound rather melodramatic, does it not? Because, you know, traveling to another continent and living in another culture, may not be quite exciting enough, right? Best to add some pizzaz; spice it up a bit. I also assumed it was broad and vague enough to encapsulate a wide spectrum of potential feelings and observations about my future experiences. But I have to say, I never imagined how precisely fitting and not at all exaggerated the name I selected would actually turn out to be. But when I returned home, stepping off the plane from South Africa honestly felt more like exiting an alien spacecraft and entering an entirely different universe than merely returning from a trip abroad (ok, I haven’t actually traveled to another universe, but one can speculate, no?). The strangest part? It wasn’t so much the world around me that was peculiar—it was me. I was the alien. You see, many of the differences between living here and living on “that side” are tangible. But most have a lot more to do with state of mind.
Out of all the blog entries I have written thus far, this has been the most difficult to assemble—I have so many fragmented drafts that I have started and stopped, so many thoughts, unrelated but somehow woven together because they were born of the same experiences. I hardly know how to make the thoughts and emotions in my head materialize into words on the screen. I think it’s in part because, once again, one of the Peace Corps mantras has held to be true—reverse culture shock is indeed arguably more difficult to grapple with than adjusting to a new country. It’s also partly because the unbelievable web of distractions that I find myself somehow already re-immersed in continually pulls me away from the ever-so-“dull” task of actually processing my own experiences; and finally, because I was hoping that after a few days mulling over everything, a cohesive theme or story would emerge, allowing me to write something a little more engaging or intellectually compelling. While everything makes sense to me—actually, with remarkable clarity—I still can’t seem to make sense of it on paper. But, as I have said before, a partial motive for maintaining this blog is simply for my own recollection of experiences. So, rather than scrap what has been one of the more poignant points of my experience—switching paths—just because I can’t make it “pretty,” I’m just going to put it all out there. So, what follows (in the next several entries, most of which still in the works) is a series of incredibly meaningful moments over the past few weeks, haphazardly strewn together…if anyone actually makes it through these, apologies in advance. I might make you cookies. :o)