The reverse culture shock is a very strange and very real thing. I am on a bus, looking through my window, and taking in the vast redwood forests in California. My mind is still in Brazil. My hand is fidgeting with the cap of my water bottle. I am thinking about taking a shower, rinsing off all of the sand from my hair and legs. My hands are moving quickly as I tie my hair up and take it down again. I graze my hands over my face and feel an unfamiliar dry texture. It is cold here. I am wearing leggings and a jacket. I shouldn’t be cold. It is okay, I tell myself, because I will soon be soaking in the hot sun again—right? I am back with the people I met during the beginning of the program. I see people that look familiar, as though I had seen them in a dream. I sit through sessions listening to adults explain how to be speak to an audience, how to avoid saying “like” or “um”, how to tell a story, how to be patient to others, how to be “successful”. This word, “success” has since been redefined in my head. It is difficult to attempt to explain how strange it is to be back. Everything that the speakers are preaching are very valuable qualities that will truly make us successful in this society, but I am still thinking about biting into a freshly peeled banana and marveling at the sweet center around the small seeds. My mind is still in Brazil. These tips seem almost comical in my mind. Success! How to use your bridge year to be what is expected of you: to network, to change the world, to bring these countries from out of the darkness and into the light. It was very clear what they were saying and I understood what they were explaining but I keep thinking as though I had stepped out and into the light in Brazil. I now have a better concept of what life is truly about, but I am now back in this “dream world”.
This dream world is in the redwoods. This dream world is the United States, it is my culture, and my language. I am saying “thank you” and “good-morning”; I am following through the motions as though it was muscle memory but it seems as though the life before living abroad is a sort of fantasy life. So when I hear the speaker talk about international social innovations being either privately or publicly funded I cannot help but let out a small laugh. I have been thrown into a washing machine, taken out, and asked to do calculus. It is difficult to describe the feeling of returning home, because home is somewhere else now. Interacting with the world you once felt so comfortable in is now a reality and the “norm” has never felt so different. My brain is hyperactive, noticing every little difference. The cuffed pants, kombucha tea, and waste-bin free bathrooms are staring me in the face. “How was Brazil?” is such an odd question to me because it implies that I am no longer there, though my mind is still drifting off. I am drinking coffee and chewing on pao de queijo, watching the hummingbirds zip from flower to flower and then into the clear blue sky.