My initial reaction was a confusion that I would like to describe as the Where-Are-All-The-Brown-People phenomenon. It was also weird to hear English from so many people. I was surrounded by it. I could understand everything I heard without intentionally processing it. I saw expensive packaged and processed food everywhere, and it looked really unappetizing. I'm still not sure why we subject ourselves to pepperoni pizza Hot Pockets, canned peaches in heavy syrup, and Diet Coke sweetened with Splenda. Does anyone actually really enjoy the taste of these things, or is it the high that they get from instant gratification that makes them think that what they are eating and drinking is actually "delicious"? For whatever we started processing all this food, it's too cheap now for those on a lower income to not struggle with making it a part of their daily diet. Boo.
While it was great to always be able to express myself to 100% satisfaction and at a normal speed in English, it was annoying to not have other bilingual people with me. It's so convenient to be able to switch into another language when you don't want people to understand you. I realize that sounds kind of rude, but if I wanted to surprise someone, it was handy. If I forgot someone's name, it was a heck of a lot less rude to ask the bilingual next to me than to have them understand that I couldn't remember them. It was also a way to have a private conversation in a public setting, but I realize these selfish reasons are something that most people deal with, and I'll just have to forgo it once again.
I recently moved into my apartment in Provo. As I was washing the dishes (by hand, because it really is faster than the dishwasher, and you don't end up with dried sanitized pieces of food to scrape off after the cycle is done), I saw a few lines of ants steadily climbing up and down our walls and counters. My first thought was, 'hmm, these are smaller than the ones in Mexico.' I then proceeded to spread the wet clean dishes across the counter to dry. My roommate came in and asked what the heck I was doing. We have a dishwasher. Although I did just mention a few phrases earlier that I prefer washing by hand, I didn't realize that's what I was doing until she said something. I felt silly. How could I forget we have a dishwasher? Isn't it easier? Isn't that why we pay hundreds of dollars for these devices? To make our lives easier? It just happened naturally. I saw some dishes, I got out the sponge and soap. I even rinsed them the same way I had done in Mexico, splashing the water with my hand onto the soapy dish. "At least dry them in the dishwasher if you're going make things so hard on yourself. We have no counter space." I thought about the irony of the situation: we cook everything in microwaves and eat everything out of cans. Why do we need all of this counter space anyway? Realizing that I was being weird, I looked for other things that should have struck me as strange in the kitchen. Excited to have noticed something, I exclaimed to my roommate, "we have ants!" It felt good to be aware of my culture again. "A lot?" she asked. I paused, I couldn't really remember what "a lot" of ants would look like. They were nothing compared to my village in Mexico. I just showed her, and she was pretty unhappy with the sight. "Great. We're going to have to complain to management again," she said, then she left the room.
I guess we do have a lot of ants. I just didn't think anything of it, because I haven't seen them in my food yet. I realize that regardless of whether or not they're in my food, I should probably get rid of them. It was just interesting to see how desensitized I had become to them.
Sometimes I have trouble talking. I'll be mid-sentence and pause because I know how to say what I want to say in Spanish, but I can't think of the word or how to phrase my thoughts in English. Example:
My roommate's bananas were going to go bad and I told my friend, "We need to make banana bread with those. A few more days and they aren't... they aren't..." I wanted to say, "no van a servir para nada," but you can't say, "they aren't going to serve for anything," in English. It just sounds weird. My friend who speaks Portuguese said he totally understands. It's been years and he still has the same problem. Rather than insufficient language acquisition, perhaps this is evidence of superior language acquisition; I have gotten so good at Spanish that I no longer organize thoughts by language but by meaning. Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better.
It is good to be back, though. I like being busy. I'm happy when I'm busy. It was nice to get away from schedules, though. Good to see how people manage their time differently. Definitely good to see friends and family. After Mexico, I think I want to be an immigration attorney. I want to minor in international development. I've just learned so much from what I saw and experienced, from the people and the culture, that I'm taking a new direction in academics. Talking to people, getting to know them and their families and why and how people migrate and how they feel about it gives me understanding for the people I wish to help some day. They are amazing people. The are a sharing people. They are a dancing and laughing people. They are a people I would like to spend my life working with.