April 27, 2012
Apache Junction, Arizona, United States
When I returned to the fiery desert of Arizona it was as it always had been but I saw it for the first time as the wildness it is: the sun setting murderous fire to the mountain every evening, the mad richochet of bullets in the desert and encroaching into the city, the relentless heat threatening to steal your very life away, the people who think that because they live in the west they can live like cowboys - shoot first, ask questions later. And more than ever before it felt like home, this comforting, fucked-up place.
As I ly in this Panamanian hammock, staring at the desert stars on a motionless night, images from traveling take over me. I laugh to see Lucas there in front of me, juggling and telling a story in a highly Argentinian accented potpourri of Spanish and English. I shut my eyes and feel myself sway like a blade of grass afflicted by the light breeze. The hammock is being pushed gently back and forth by the hands of one of the volunteers in the Panamanian cloud forest. I smile, pleased to see him again. I hear the coyotes howling - a sound that I had not known that I missed until now. I hear a rustle in the bushes and am reminded of the night we camped amidst a maze of rate holes and a network of trees will their branches intermingling to allow howler monkeys to pass over their heads. How rich was the time we were traveling, how beautiful the places, but I ly now perfectly happy here, watching the stars play over the Superstition Mountains.
So here I am in Arizona. I did the big ‘life-changing’ trip and yet I seem to be in the exact same point of life right now that I was in before I left.
“What did you expect?” I can imagine you saying. “You were only gone for five months.”
“And did you learn anything from this?” you ask.
“Well,” I say and lean back in my chair. I learned that there are many people in the world who cannot be trusted, and I learned to be suspicious of everyone. I also learned that there are just as many people who can be trusted and I learned to open up to the people who have proven it. I learned that poor people are more generous than rich people. I learned that money and happiness do not have a proportional relationship. I learned that there are other people, heaps of other people around the world like me who are willing to give up worldly possessions and proximity to friends and family in favor of the quest to know the entire world.
I learned some practical things as well. Lionfish are dangerous. Stingray meat is delicious as long as you don’t eat it for more than a week. A rainproof tent is important, as is a mosquito net. I learned good places to visit and good places to avoid.
Considering we were only gone for five months, it is harder than I imagined to assimilate back into the American culture. Everything is so fast-paced, everyone so content to rush through life. Everyone is expected to work at least forty hours a week, but nobody is expected to spend time with their loved ones. I believe I have also become temporarily less adept at speaking the English language. My sentences don’t flow as smoothly; my vocabulary is only a percentage of what it was before. Sometimes I even forget simple words.
But I am home. Will I travel more? Oh yes, I think there is no stopping my desire to see more, know more.
I will assimilate in time. But I’m keeping a close eye on myself, making sure I don’t completely return to my old self. There are some things I don’t want to forget, some things that I need to hold on to.
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