Arriving Home: So Familiar, So Strange

            One of the things I absolutely love about going to America (aside from seeing my family and friends) is to experience the exhilarating sensation of change that happens after you’ve been in another country for awhile.  I was especially excited to feel it this time because I was returning after my longest absence.  It’s so difficult to describe what it’s like to step back into a place that is so familiar but so strange at the same time.  It’s so sensually stimulating and almost overpowering, trying to take it all in at once.

I always try to be especially attentive to situations like this so I can analyze them and understand the differences that I so often take for granted in America.  It’s easy to see the differences when I’m in Russia but upon returning, they become almost invisible again.  So I like to challenge myself to be observant and see them when I come back because this is when they will most likely pop out at me the strongest.

But I’m still amazed at how quickly I readjust and everything feels ordinary to me.  In the airport is where I feel the differences the strongest.  There’s something about the atmosphere of it.  I just know I’m in America.  I don’t know if it’s the sound, the fast pace of life, the people, smells, or a combination of it all, but it’s just a feeling I get.

Then, when I’m in the car on the way to my house, it all shifts back to being ordinary.  Maybe it’s because I’m on familiar roads and with familiar people, but I seem to become oblivious to everything.  I even look out the window and try to see the landscape through the eyes of a foreigner.  I try to imagine what it’d be like to bring some of my Russian friends here and show them everything.  I try to guess which things they might find strange or different: street signs, the flow of traffic, billboards, restaurants, etc.  Although I can guess some of these differences, they still fail to register as different to me.  They just blend into the scenery.

Of course it’s not incredibly important for me to have this experience, it’s just something I find very fascinating.  I wonder if I’ll ever see things in a different light.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to come to America as a foreigner and see things through such a perspective.  It makes me realize how oblivious we are to the things that are familiar to us.

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