This morning I was reading some American magazines that came in a care package from a good friend at home and I started to notice that so much of the content didn’t pertain to my daily life. I won’t take this opportunity to make sweeping pronouncements about either culture, but I will say that it was a probing moment for me. How will I feel when I return to that culture in just 18 months? It’s hard to imagine reverting completely back, and additionally transitioning smoothly. Adaptation is natural, but not without growing pains.
For the purpose of my epiphany, I noticed how little time and effort I now put into the way I look. Certain decorum is required for work in any professionally capacity in Botswana, but I’m talking about grooming. I find myself constantly dirty (especially my clothes and feet) and both cleaning and bathing have been moved to lower positions on my list of water-use priorities. Accordingly, I shave less often and hardly ever use product in my hair – I’m sure I don’t smell the greatest either. I remember being told about this when I shadowed another volunteer 6 months ago, but for some reason or another it hit me today.
This seems trivial in the grand scheme of things. When I move back to the United States I will of course shower, wash my clothes, and clean my living space regularly. Even later this month when I am in South Africa I’ll experience a shift in the amount of what’s accessible to me. The fact that it is alien to me right now is the cause of my wonder. Have you ever moved to a new place and experienced the moment when you really feel at home for the first time? That might be what happened to me.
I still get homesick every so often, but it’s comforting to finally have that sense of normality and ownership here. Furthermore, I can’t help but contemplate how different my standards will be in 2013… stay tuned, I guess.