As someone who had experienced Reverse Culture Shock before, I prepared myself for the worst. I had lived that type of emotional period, before after only six weeks over seas, so I could only imagine how bad this was going to be.
I painted on my smile, stuffed my most precious memories in little boxes with thick locks and boarded the plane to New York. As I almost zombie like doses in and out of sleep I was always startled that not only my dreams, but also my waking moments were purely in English. The harsh letters and sounds of my native language tasted bitter and unfamiliar on my still Ecuadorian tongue. I looked at people with iPhones, computers and nice clothing and left the airport in one of my two family cars. Everything was back to the way it had always been, but now my normal seemed foreign and once again I felt like a gringa, still out of place.
I felt as if my fears were coming true as I watched giant shinning buildings reach up in the sky blocking the stars from sight. I sat in the backseat of the car and ate the leftovers from my parents Thai food stop before the airport and felt as if once again where I was, was temporary. I would be going back soon.
Each day passed and I began to feel a new sensation, everything was weird but not because it felt wrong, but because it felt already as if I had never left. Everything seemed to have gone back to normal.
I could see myself saying “thats so American,” or, thinking “Ecuadorians do that SO much better,” not because I was so aggravated or inspired to say it, but because I did not know how to handle not having strong reactions to my new, yet old, setting.
I do not find myself conflicted over the cultural differences but rather noticing them and being intrigued by their divergent nature. I do not mind having the means necessary to buy the comforts I have been missing but I do miss having someone to share a piece of my far-a-way home with.
The obstacle in the end has not been a roller coaster of emotions all under the umbrella of not wanting to be anywhere but Ibarra; it has been my fight to be okay with not being so bothered by the culture I have been brought back to. I found myself forcing actions and comments that I felt I was supposed to say instead of taking care of myself in the stage I am currently in.
It is not a lie when I say I miss my Ibarra family more than I could describe. I miss falling asleep with Andrea on the other side of the room, waking up and having breakfast with my Mami. I long for the cultural conversations I had with my Papi and I pine for the late night Novela tradition with Omy as Valentina fell alseep. I feel them in the pieces of myself that I left there, their foot steps echo in the hollow spaces inside of me that leaving created.
It is also not a lie when I say it is nice for things to be easy. I enjoy not having to think about my grammar or conjugations before I speak and to know that I have the inside scoop on cultural norms and mostly likely will not offend anyone by accident. I like to see my parents faces and I enjoy our movie nights and appreciate, now more than ever, how easily we all live together.
I protected myself and my memories so well that my locks are even hard for me to break. I feel sometimes as if the past eight, most important months in my life so far, were just a vivid dream. I am reminded that they were not by the news I missed and landscape changes but it is hard to be convinced when you still fit in all the old spaces. My life here feels different when it comes in contact with the parts of me that are different. But in the end the weirdest part is how normal it all is, once again.