I am currently flying over Iowa on my way to LAX. I was in JFK for a bit of a layover, but now it's the real home stretch. The last 36 hours have been hectic, boring, and painful all at the same time. I do not recommend dragging 80 kilos of luggage around the Paris metro system, in case you were thinking about it. I booked this flight so long ago that I had no idea where I was going to be right now. It turned out that I would be back in Leiden, outside Amsterdam, where my two traveling buddies have been living this semester. I was very close to splurging and changing my flight to be out of Amsterdam, but I didn't. Stupid decision. J. Alexander was on my flight from Paris though. I was pretty close to asking him something ridiculous and out of the blue like, "Does my ass look fat in these jeans?" but I didn't.
I can't be upset at the moment though. I have WiFi on my flight, and I am Going to California for the first time in almost six months, and there is a 3x3 animal style, fries, and a coke waiting for me at the In-N-Out near LAX. I have definitely have missed my favorite California food more than anything else. Is that bad?
I was informed (warned?) by my abroad program that there are two kinds of culture shock that people tend to experience when they live in another country for an extended amount of time. There is the shock of arriving in a foreign land, not knowing the people and the customs, and having to figure everything out on your own. It's frustrating, annoying, and eye-opening. After a month of Denmark I was settled. I never ceased to be annoyed with little things like how everything is closed on Sunday, but I adapted for the most part with no problem.
The second kind of culture shock is supposed to hit when you go home. Apparently a lot of people have such a fantastic time during their program that going home just sucks. This happened to my cousin when he went to Barcelona a few years ago. I have a feeling that, at least at Berkeley, this has to do with the fact that we do real work. According to the interwebs, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Leiden are both highly-regarded institutions internationally. Yet, my Berkeley friends and I haven't done so little work since elementary school. Go figure. Next semester is scheduled to be one of my lightest since coming to college, but I know it will be a lot more intense than this past six months. Frankly, I'm tired of not using my brain.
I doubt I will be feeling this reverse culture shock. I was tired of how small Copenhagen is, how horrible the weather is in that part of the world, and how expensive it was. I loved the place, but 6 months was just enough time. I have been fortunate enough on this trip that I have seen a ton of Europe. Since arriving in late July, I have been to France three times, Sweden twice, England, Germany, Holland four times, Spain twice, Morocco, and Portugal. I have seen more in my life than most people ever will, and feel like I am somewhat immune to whatever culture shock is. I get way more annoyed being in Texas than most other places.
This adventure is far from being completely sunk in and understood. I have seen more in these months than I usually do, and it flew by like you wouldn't believe. Some of the best stories I have were made along the way, and I haven't even realized it completely. There will never be anything else quite like it for me, and I am happy to say that I lived life to the fullest while I have been traveling. I made some great friends with couches in different parts of the world, and can't wait to see them again in who-knows-when.
At the same time, I have never appreciated my friends at home so much. For that matter, I have never appreciated my country so much, but that is 95% Obama. My friend Ryan and I recently spent an entire lunch just talking about our mutual close friends. We wondered how they are, if all the gossip that has filtered over the Pond is true, and how they have changed. I miss Leah's laugh, Pablo's wisdom, and Ben's politics.
But, seriously, I miss food the most.