Every time I come back to the United States it feels a little more foreign. I guess this is typical for a perennial expat. I'm sure to an extent this is intensified because I seem to gravitate toward developing countries for my travels. Now, just coming back even the airport seems fancy. There's a Starbucks! I can use a card to buy things! Bookstores, toilet paper in public restrooms, more food options than there seem to be people, climate control, signs with correct information on them, artwork for no reason... it's really a bit overwhelming. Of course it doesn't stop at the airport. Everything seems SO nice back in the US - effortlessly fancy and huge and just a bit unnecessary. Just as an example - we went to the rural midwestern town where my father grew up yesterday. Their grocery store is twice the size of the largest grocery store I've seen in Lagos and even in such an out of the way corner of America is chock full of things you just can't buy in Lagos because they're too exotic. All for a little farming community of 9,000 people who also have access to Amazon Prime I might add!
All this excess inevitably leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Why do people need 500 options for sunglasses? How often do they really eat cupcakes anyway? And what happens to all that new stuff everyone is always buying? Everywhere I look things seem to be new already. What are people replacing?
I was telling a friend that I don't always feel like I fit in back home. It isn't so much that I think America is materialistic (it is, but so are a lot of places) or that I'm living life on some higher plane back in Nigeria. Life can be petty anywhere and I haven't made any special effort to have a 'meaningful' tour there. It's just that there's something about America that doesn't seem quite... real. Do you know what I mean? There's an ebola epidemic in West Africa and yet here we are exploring a new coffee shop. ISIS is on TV and yet we have 5 different movies opening at the theater. The streets are unbelievably clean, there are decorations in public places 'just because' and it all feels a bit surreal. I've said it upon reentry the last few times - America is like Disney World. Not that I think life shouldn't go on - I'm glad we don't have to stress out about every single problem facing the world - but I feel disconnected and maybe a bit sheltered in a way here that I just don't overseas.
Anyway, enough of that. I'm actually having a great time with family and thinking relatively few deep thoughts I promise.