So, I’m back. Home. Can you hear the slightly rehearsed tone in which I just said that? Let me get all the “It’s not that I don’t want to be home” and “I am just re-adapting to my own culture” bits out of the way. I never thought living in the Northern suburbs of one of South Africa’s capital cities could make me feel more stuck, bored, depressed and lonely than months and months on a tiny island three to six hours away from anywhere by the occasional ferry…but here it is. I feel stuck, bored, depressed and lonely. I spend my days living on my father’s couch in my pajamas flicking channels between Jerseylicious and Next after Next after Next… It’s been a month and I still haven’t unpacked my suitcase. All my glitzy dreams for this year have disappeared off the horizon. I feel like a person who walks into a room and suddenly can’t remember what I went in there for. I’ve unnecessarily read through a few articles on reverse culture shock only to establish what I’ve been expecting with less than excited anticipation.
Here’s my lo-down on the after-effects of living on Ulleungdo for half of three years and then returning to my Goyang (hometown). The sunshine after meters of snow is great. My physical happiness levels are swimming around in glee due to my hoisted vitamin D levels. I can no longer eat desert without feeling sick, because in South Africa, we make up for sadness in sugar. The Chai tea I had today made my pancreas scream for help after just two sips, and my previously favourite ice cream lurks in the freezer abandoned (these are still the good things). I get to hang out with the fam, and eat my Dad’s famous steak.
You are expecting me to add how happy I am about being able to understand what’s happening and being said around me, aren’t you? WRONG! First of all, what the hell is Ayoba, and why are white people saying it ALL the time? In the time I’ve been gone, a thousand in-jokes (out jokes in my case) have all procreated (as have many of my friends) and had little in-joke grandchildren. Also, I have found flashing blanks in my brain when people use too many words to explain something. I cannot begin to tell you the amount of times I have cheated my way to not understanding people’s English (or Afrikaans). On the other hand, Malls and restaurants are sensory over-drivers. I can read and hear and understand every bit of unnecessary information that floats at me.
My friends are complaining about the tone in which I speak to them. Apparently I am employing Korean age appropriate tone to my youngerers. Without taking outright offense, its really hard to adapt to all these things at once. I am upset at the apathy and individualistic mentality that exists among my peers, who are, afterall being very understanding. But how do I explain how I think to them in a way that can let them understand? I can hardly give linear directions to my home. So I wrap my hands around another glass of chilled juice while the phone rings by itself in the next room.
How I long for my little place with the faint mouldy smell and the faux wooden floors… the friends who tried to understand my words even though they never really could. They understood so much more, gave so much more, received so much more. How I long for the family who took me in and wrapped themselves around me.
I am not ungrateful for here, just having a hard time spatulating my unwilling mind from where I came.