I’m home. I’ve been home for about 3 weeks now, but the lack of anything to do has made all of my days just meld together. Coming back was at first a bit strange, not going to lie. It’s so green here, people have front lawns instead of walls around their houses. It’s also cold. I’m used to sweating simply from sitting still. I connected in London and spent the night with a friend. It was 15 C (60 F). There was no sun, and I was downright cold! During the past 3 months I’ve felt a chill occasionally, a light breeze, etc, but the actual feeling of cold was so foreign to me. As I shivered in my sweatshirt by the bus stop, my friend walked over in a T-shirt and laughs at me.

I also noticed how much calmer everything is here. Granted, I’m in a fairly rural suburb, but people actually obey traffic laws, cars wait for each other, they stay in their lanes… what is this? I even walked all the way down Main St. and didn’t get cat called a single time. It was glorious. I’ve been so used to being on guard all the time when in public, that I forgot how nice it is to just be able to walk in peace.

The strangest thing for me so far is the fact that everyone speaks English. Not only is it a shock that everyone around me can understand me and I can understand them (unfortunately, at times), but it’s a shock that I can’t speak another language. Even simple things like “Hello” and “Thank you” must be spoken in English, even though my first instinct is to say “Aslaama,” “3ayshek,” or even “Merci.” I worked with my mom at a restaurant twice this week where everyone else who works there is Hispanic. All but one man is fluent in English. While my first reaction was to want to speak to him in a language other than English (because he can’t understand) I found myself going to Arabic first, then told myself no, I need so speak a Romance language, and would go to French. Neither of those is Spanish. I’ve just been so used to speaking those 2 languages (or at least trying to), that even 3 weeks later, and even though Spanish is my best second language, my brain doesn’t automatically switch to Spanish yet. Perhaps if I were saying more complex things, words that I only know in Spanish, then it would be different.

I’d have to say that the most frustrating part about being home is not being able to get around. I do not have a car, and there is nothing to do in town within walking distance except go to the grocery store. Even in La Marsa, a suburb, it was busy and there were many taxis, and it cost about 1 dinar to get across town. Even in the town next to mine, Morristown, which is the county seat and very happening, a taxi would cost at least $5 to get around. Hardly a regular form of transportation.

Of course I also miss the small things, like couscous, eating fish multiple times a week, fresh baked bread at every meal, the constant view of the sea, and naturally, my friends.

I’m currently job-searching within the public health field, specifically women’s health and trying to combine it with some form of advocacy and outreach. Graduate school is of course in the future, but like most college grads these days, I need to garner an income for a little while. As my hard-earned tan slowly fades and the sun periodically peaks through the Northeast clouds, my time spent in New Jersey has yet to be anything comparable to my time abroad. While I do plan to return at some point, until then at least I can say that I dreamed of Africa, and I lived the dream.