Yet, in spite of the above, we have been really happy in our home here in Desert Hot Springs. The "winter" weather this year has been stunningly beautiful with above average temperatures and very little wind, unusual for our area. We've enjoyed the golf and the exercise classes, the pool and the jacuzzi, the fresh citrus fruit from our trees, getting our home in order and the presence of burgeoning friendships with people who have warmly welcomed us back. We even played in a 4 person scramble last Saturday and came in 2nd place! It's hard to believe that we've been back a month. Where does the time go?
This past week it began to dawn on us that we were not on vacation but that this is life. For me, this season is laced with gratitude for the opportunity to chill out along with feelings of occasional loneliness and isolation, not having a job to do, feeling a little bit insignificant in the overall scheme of life. I need a little structure to my life and have realized that I need a bit of a schedule especially if I am going to make significant and important progress on my grant project. But now the Winter Olympics are in full force so that really screws up my drive to be productive! I know I will find rhythm in this life and am learning to enjoy each day for what it brings.
So some reflections on America.
Deals. There's always a deal. The low price of some merchandise still staggers me. But I guess the sheer volume of goods the US consumes helps that factor. We joined this thing called Movie Pass.here. You pay $10.00 a month and you have unlimited access to films in your area. The catch is you can only go to one movie a day and you can't see the same movie twice. Not such a big problem! So far we've seen 3 movies and that easily pays for our monthly fee. Weird. Don't understand it. Happy to use it.
Food. Overall the CA grocery stores have decent produce. We are lucky. But I do miss the variety of lettuce that the French stores carried. And of course, the lovely cheeses. You can find "specialty" lettuce in Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, but those stores aren't convenient to where I live. In face, the nearest grocery store is a 3 mile drive from us so I definitely miss walking to the store to buy fresh produce and that unforgettable baguette for dinner. I either have to buy it ahead and hope I use it in time, or run to the store all the time, which isn't as fun in the car. Love the ribeye steaks that go on sale out here and also been indulging in Mexican cuisine with homemade guacamole (the avocados have been beautiful and cheap) and carne asada with my own marinade. Fajitas remain a staple in our household.
Convenience. Ordering stuff off of Amazon, stores like Target, and a vast array of choices in every store we enter is often overwhelming but also kind of fun after the years of struggling to find exactly what you need and where you might find it in the smaller European markets. Excess goes along with this but it's nice to know that you can track down almost anything you might want or need for a decent price.
Violence. The US is, sadly, a very violent place. The nightly news is filled with reports of killings, shootings, accidents, robberies, etc. Why we struggle in this category so much more than other places is a mystery to me. I remain nervous about our loose gun culture and hope I don't get caught in a crossfire anytime soon.
Time Zone. While I miss being nearby all of beloved friends in Europe, it is admittedly nice to be closer to my US friends. Of course, many of closest friends still live a couple or three time zones away but it's still better than 6, 7, 8 or 9 hours apart. But it's weird that when I get up in the morning, my European friends are half way done with their day. I'm always wondering what time it is somewhere else. Funny because I can barely keep track of what time or day it is here. I rarely wear a watch anymore.
The US is my native country and the place I do feel most at home in the sense that my defaults are deeply ingrained for functioning here. While I find some aspects of this culture troubling, at least I have a decent understanding of this culture. It's nice to fully function in the native language as well!
I have learned to enjoy living in other places and am grateful for all that my experiences of living abroad have given me. I will always have to adjust to certain things being quite different than what I grew used to in Europe. I think my reverse culture shock would be even greater though if I was working or adjusting back to life here with children in tow or living somewhere that I didn't love so much. But with all of the great recreational opportunities that are on offer for us through our club, it really helps us to enjoy the California lifestyle that I have always treasured. I love the sunshine, the staggering blue sky, the desert landscape, and the mountains and the hills that rise up around us.
Life is good. I am thankful. Not much more I could ask for at this point.