Nearly two years ago, I moved to Cambodia. For the first several weeks it was pretty awkward. I did not know where I was, where I was going, how to do simple tasks on my own. I did not understand what was being said around me. I was left in awe walking through the "meat" section at the "supermarket" seeing things like pig intestines and coagulated chicken blood. (Seriously, what do you even do with that stuff?!?!) I stuck out like a sore thumb everywhere I went with my white skin and pointed nose. I was perpetually stared at.
And, some of those things have not changed in the past two years. I still get stared at. I still stick out with my white skin (though I regularly get comments from Khmer friends about how "black" I am becoming). I still don't know what to do with coagulated chicken blood (but I think it is often put in soups...). But, I have learned to navigate my life here. I have learned how to weave through traffic, how to use the sidewalk as an extension of the road, how to effectively use cars as shields when making left turns. I have learned to find things on my own, to bargain in the market, to have full conversations with people. I have learned patience and flexibility and how sometimes it is necessary to push your way forward rather than wait in a non-existent line because I am the only one who gets offended when someone cuts in line. I have learned so many things that I can't articulate or explain, so many things that are only learned by firsthand experience.
Soon I will be in America to visit. And, I think I am going to be awkward...really awkward. I know that things will be familiar, but I am not sure they will feel "normal" anymore. Driving in lanes? Cold weather? Everyone speaking English? No Korean soap operas on television? Fixed prices? Aisles full of all different types of cereal?
I know it sounds silly. I spent 23 years with all of those things being completely normal, but they aren't anymore. So, bear with me in my awkwardness. Don't laugh at my wide-eyed awe in the cereal aisle. And, try not to roll your eyes at my rice cravings...