And that's just the beginning of the weirdness.
This has been my life the last 9 months, and going back for only 10 days to the US was a crazy experience, including being blindsided by as little culture shock along the way.
Here are a few things I found, well, different than I remembered.
It took me a full day to figure out how to use my cell phone again. It's been out of commission since the day I landed in Cuba. I've never been very adept at using one to begin with, and find them a complete intrusion in my life---thus the reason I seldom had it handy when we were living back in the US.
Nine months of living in a society without cellphones has been blissful, I'm not going to lie. If my teenager needs me, he picks up a (free) payphone and calls home. My husband and I call each other at work or write each other notes to communicate. No more texting! So it's been a shock coming from somewhere where few people have phones (they only can call on base, so most people don't bother), to coming back to a place where everyone has a phone. I honestly forgot how crazy people are when they talk (scream!!!) on their phones in public, discussing WAY too personal things for everyone to hear, and doing it everywhere. One cell phone etiquette question lingering after our trip is, for the love of all that's good in the world, WHY do people talk on the phone while taking care of their personal business in a public restroom? I kind of forgot (blocked out?) that people actually do that.
I did see more signs that said things like "Take your personal calls outside the building" and "No talking on cell phones while checking out." Granted, one of these signs was in a liquor store on State Street in Jackson, MS, where you had to give your order to a clerk encased in a wire mesh cage (Siri sucks), but still. . . Being a salesclerk is a thankless job, and in addition to waiting for people to do things like pull their sweaty money wad out of their bras (some of my dad's wonderful customers would do this), you shouldn't have to listen to people's loud, obnoxious conversations because they have no manners. So kudos for those stores that are posting signs.
I hope it's working.
I don't mean this in a crunchy-granola-hippie kind of way.
Quite literally, it's green---grassy, leafy, verdant. One of the first things one of the kids I did, upon getting to our hotel in Florida, was slip off our flip-flops and walk in grass barefooted.
Right now, there is NO green grass in Cuba. It's brown dirt and matted, dried grass.
In fact, if you golf here, you have to bring a small piece of turf unless you want to hit off rocks and dirt. The greens are green---but they are tiny.
I forgot about kudzu. Kudzu covers houses, trees, telephone poles and wires, mailboxes, and abandoned cars. Also, there are mushrooms. Mushrooms! My parents' yard in Mississippi is so lush, it's full of mushrooms.
(Before you trek to their house to see for yourself, they aren't those type of mushrooms, FYI).
I forgot how much I love the whirring sound of cicadas. Cicadas sound like the south to me. It's comforting in a strange way. I miss them.
I don't miss squirrels (thanks to Rodney), but the kids did have fun seeing them for the first time in months. Same with several types of birds. And the hummingbirds and vultures here aren't noisy like Mississippi mockingbirds.
It was, quite simply, sensory overload. And wonderful. Even if we did get sick and tired of all the rain (it rained almost daily---more in 10 days than in almost 10 months here), it was nice to have a change in scenery for a few days.
Ewe's Not Fluffy, Ewe's Fat
Everywhere at GTMO, at all hours of the day and night, you see people here running or walking. There are plenty of (free!) exercise classes, and they are almost always packed. People take exercise and fitness seriously here. Most of that is because military servicemen and women have to pass PT tests, but I think a lot of the love of physical activity comes from the fact that there really isn't a lot else to do. Remember that GTMO saying: You leave here a hunk, a chunk, or a drunk.
So coming back to the US where most people are, well, less motivated to exercise, and therefore are a little (or lot) overweight is a shock of sorts.
Where did all the fat people come from? I guess they have always been around, but coming from somewhere where they are probably less than 10 morbidly obese people (military spouses or contractors), it's a shock to see so many chunks out there.
Also, in regards to the really, really fit guys we have running all over our base----they tend to run shirtless. More reasons to love living here. :)
When did Duck Dynasty get so freakin' famous?!?
Not just at Walmart, the epoch of all things culturally wrong with the world, but everywhere else we went. There were no Duck Dynasty flashlights, tee shirts, life-sized cut outs, hats, visors, sunglasses, mugs, cups, bobblehead dolls, posters, etc ad naseum when we lived in Texas just 9 short months ago.
Seriously, people, why do you want to wear pictures of people who look like that man who sleeps under the bypass, and on camo fabric? It's just. . . weird.
I like the show. I am sure they are lovely people. But dear God, it's like someone vomited Duck Dynasty all over the world.
One day, my oldest child ate three sandwiches. Not because he's a teenager and has the metabolism of a hummingbird, but because "the bread is SO SOFT AND FRESH!"
No more pre-frozen bread!
I stocked up on some birthday presents for kids, since we only have a few things to chose from here. The last birthday party we went to, we had to give the girl colored pens and a notebook because the toy and book section was very picked over. Other things we bought you cannot get in Cuba: a variety of baseball gloves----the few here don't include an adult glove for our left handed kid, or the correct size for the youngest; running socks---I don't like the two styles they sell here; toiletries---more choices, and things that can't be sent here via mail because of fragrance; and lots of arts and crafts materials that don't exist here at all.
Also, we have very nice sunglasses here---VERY nice, as in usually $180, only $90 Prada or Coach or Kate Spade, etc etc glasses. If you know me and what a natural born klutz I am, you can see how owning something as ridiculous as a $90 pair of sunglasses can be. I run in them, wear them in the ocean, work in the yard in them, and tend to leave them in strange places and never see them again. I stocked up on frou-frou brand glasses at Ross and TJ Maxx for $5-10 each. So there. Also purses---I would love to buy a $170 purse, but puh-leeze. It's going to eventually end up thrown onto the dirty floorboard of my car, so really, what's the point? We don't have a shortage of nice quality, sturdy purses or sunglasses at our NEX----just a shortage of affordable ones. I got a really nice purse on super-super-super sale for less than $50. Score! Can't do that at GTMO.
The VERY BEST thing about going back was that my grandmother cooked the last batch of purple speckled butterbeans that she and my late grandfather had put up together. And I ate three servings. I've written before about how I equate food with love (and how food can seal a friendship). Nevermind all the other things we got---the fact that she made my favorite meal (and that my grandfather had a part in it) made it the best supper ever.
Back to the Real (?) World
I loved seeing my family for a too-short visit, and I feel especially bad that I didn't make an extra effort to see more people---especially my friends (that's you, Becky, Liz, and Jennifer) who for over 20 years of our crazy gypsy life have always, always, always been the ones who say, "You're coming to Mississippi? I'll drive over to see you!" Once you've spent one, two, or more 12 hour days in a car to make it back home, and you are no longer 25 and hurt for 5 days afterwards, you appreciate these friends even more. Especially when they, too, may have a long drive to see you.
My husband likes to say, "This place is great as long as you aren't into material things," and that's so true.
We did end up with an additional suitcase crammed full of "necessities" we can't get here---but now that we've lived here, it's nice to be able to look at the massive variety of everything and think, "I just really don't need that." Having one or two choices instead of twenty isn't really a bad thing, once you are used to it.
Starting with the day we came back, and everywhere we went the next few days---first at the airport, and then the NEX, and then our neighborhood---people stopped us or rolled down their car windows and hollered, "Welcome back home!" And that's as good a reason as any to be happy to come back.
|As close as you get to an iguana in Mississippi|
That, and the iguanas. In ten days, I never did stop searching for them on the side of the road. Oh, how I missed the iguanas!