Friday, December 21, 2007
The job search process was tedious and a test of patience and self-confidence. I sent out plenty of resumes for jobs that I KNOW I was qualified for, and never heard a thing in reply. If there's anything I learned in the Peace Corps, though, it was to work hard, but relax and trust that things will work themselves out for the best. This seems to have come true, as it always does.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Maybe the hardest thing for me to adjust to is the scale of life in Southern California. Our closest grocery store is probably two kilometers away. I sat in my car for more than two hours last weekend to visit a friend who lives 30 or 40 km from me, which is of course still in LA county. Yet at other times, I've been driving at 80 miles per hour and still been passed by other cars on a 10 lane LA freeway. Our small suburban house seems huge, and the genuinely big houses make me gasp. It's an impressive feat, when you think about it, to design an entire urban region, home to 15 million people (or more) and completely eliminate the need to walk anywhere. Has there ever been a worse invention than the auto-dependent American suburb? And the prices seem sky-high, even though it's relatively cheap compared to Western Europe. There are still some nice places in Southern California (see picture of Laguna Beach above), yet I could never even dream of being able to afford to live there. These are the things that have not been easy to adjust to.
On the other side, one great part about returning to America is how genuinely nice and friendly everyone is. This is cliche, I know, but I never thought about it until I went to Bulgaria, where it's, um, not so common. People ask me how I'm doing, help me find what I need, wish me a good day, and genuinely mean it. And of course, the best part about being home is family and friends. This needs no explanation.
The strangest part of life right now is that I'm still in transition. I refuse to stay in Southern California, but I haven't yet decided where to go or what to do. It's like the readjustment hasn't even really begun, because I'm still moving. I can hardly start processing my Peace Corps experience, adjust to a new life in my suddenly-unfamiliar native land, because life for me is still temporary. There are a few places in America where you can replicate a European lifestyle - walkable cities, public transportation, liberal minded stylish people, minimal environmental impact. When I get there, then the readjustment process will begin in earnest. Until then, I'm going to hole up in the house and do Sudoku.
Plus, it's too damn sunny and hot in LA. It shouldn't be 20 C in mid-December.
Monday, November 26, 2007
The fires essentially burned a ring around the community, and most of the cabins that burned were the ones on the edge of the forest, though a few further in-town also burned. Like all natural disasters, the damage seemed fairly random – some cabins were reduced to ashes, while neighboring places were left unscathed. Walking along our favorite hiking trails through the forest was a surreal and melancholy experience, as nearly all of the forest surrounding the community has been burned. Giant pine trees stand blackened, and the undergrowth is entirely gone. The forest floor is ash and dust.
I have posted many pictures from the fire damage on my flickr site, linked from this page.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Oddly enough, I find myself writing this from my parent’s living room in
I’m home for some personal reasons which I won’t get into on the public forum. All is well, but I just needed to be at home right now with my family. It was a quick decision, but not one I took lightly. Trevor, my former travel buddy, is valiantly continuing on the journey.
So, 27 months after the grand Peace Corps adventure began, I find myself starting over again. The readjustment has been going about as well as I could have hoped for (aside from coming down with a bad cold). The process has certainly been smoothed by having a loving and caring family to return to, who feed me well and at least pretend to listen to me when I drone on about life in the strange little corner of the world that is
The wonderful American writer Bill Bryson once wrote a book about returning to life in the States after many years abroad, entitled “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” This is how I feel. 27 months is a long time to be gone, and much has changed. I'm having to relearn how to live in my own country, just like I had to learn how to live in
Social norms, customs, habits, well, I didn’t realize how much I’d changed until I came home. In every store I enter, I have this feeling that the female employees are hitting on me – but of course they’re not, it’s just called customer service, something I’d practically forgotten about in
Now I have to make some plans and some decisions about what to do with myself. It’s wonderful being at home with Mom and Dad, but