I’ve been back in the States for a week now. Rediscovering what feels like my previous life has been an explosion of nostalgia and happiness. The last week has been full of reunions with friends, family, pets, old stomping grounds, unlimited internet, my car, and Panera. But all of this meant leaving behind what had become my reality: the Mara, hyenas, Land Cruisers, dust, chapattis, and African sunsets. I miss it all dearly. But while I’ve shed a few tears over leaving, I can’t help but smile because it happened and I know that I’m stronger and better and ready to face whatever comes next in my life because of the past year.
As for the re-entry process into the US, there have been some funny moments.
1. Everything in the Schiphol Amsterdam Airport is automated – the toilets, the doors, even the trashcans. Coming straight from Nairobi, I didn’t know what to do when the trashcan just opened...
2. In a right-hand drive car, the windshield wipers are on the left side of the steering column, while turn signals are on the right. Well, when you come to the States and drive on the other side of the car, those two things are switched. Let’s just say my windshield wipers were getting a workout the first few days I drove around and needed to turn.
3. I get confused when I go outside and it’s not the same temperature as the building I was just in. I’m too used to it being hot everywhere.
4. I did a double-take the first time I saw people walking around on sidewalks. My Africa brain went, “Look out! There might be lions or hippos or buffalo!” And then I remembered the biggest animals we have around here are squirrels.
5. The roads are like butter, it’s ridiculous. Sometimes I think I aim for the potholes so that I feel like I’m back in the Mara, dodging craters and mud pits and small cliffs.
Coming up for me, I’m starting a Wildlife Policy Internship in Bethesda, MD next week, so I’ll be staying close to home for the next few months. A good friend of mine is getting married at the end of July, and that promises many happy reunions. Beyond that, I don’t quite have a plan yet, but who knows? Maybe a return trip to Kenya will be on the list someday soon!
Best of luck to everyone still in the field and in the lab. I’ll be following all the shenanigans on Facebook and this blog – I cannot wait to see how great y’all are going to do.