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Friday, May 25, 2007

Still Crazy After All These Years

It's strange to return to Toronto, feeling like a decade, rather than a year, has passed. Some small changes, some new development projects, new haircuts on friends but, otherwise, much the same. Part of me is confused - how on earth did the old neighbourhood keep going even after I left? How does life keep on keeping on even in our absence?

Culture shock is not really an adequate word. Less than the shock of plunging your hand in freezing cold water, this movement between place and space has that dreadful nausea like you've been on an amusement park ride too long. I want off and I want things to feel normal, though I don't even know what that is. I keep thinking that in some months, when I hopefully have a job and my own place to live and I wake up with Chris at my side and shuffle to the kitchen to fix a cup of coffee and greet the day, that is when I'll feel normal again.

Somehow too I think there are different kinds of cultural nausea. My head spins when I go from Canada to Finland but the South-North business is so much harsher, so much more extreme. On CBC this afternoon was a program trying to allow people in new subdivisions the right, contrary to the developer's rules, to have a clothes line and hang their laundry out to dry. "It doesn't make sense," comes the voice of the interviewee, "that on a day like today that is sweltering and where we want to conserve energy, that people can't put their clothes on the line to dry." What's news to me isn't the efforts to fight for the right to hang our clothes, rather it's that I never knew that it could be banned in the first place! Whatever makes more sense than being able to take your wet clothes and throw them on a piece of string, use a couple of clips and let the sun and the wind do precisely what they do best? Since when does a machine that sucks energy and resources to manufacture, ship, maintain and dispose of make more sense? It's these types of crazy anachronisms that make coming 'home' so much more difficult. I just don't understand when we lost ourselves like this.

I keep starting thoughts with, "In Ghana..." which is a bad sign. I want to be able to keep the lessons I learned, remember and honour the people and experiences. In many ways, my time in El Salvador and Nicaragua hasn't so much faded as been woven into the fabric of who I am. But Ghana is still centre stage and I find myself constantly comparing, constantly throwing out so much of what goes on in Canada because in Ghana, in Ghana, in Ghana... In Ghana, most people eat food that is grown locally. In Ghana, food isn't so processed, packaged and marketed. In Ghana, people are more freely generous without strings attached. In Ghana, spaces are more open and you can access people more easily without the oceans of bureaucracy to wade through first. In Ghana, parenting isn't an exercise in anxiety (no offense to all my friends who are new parents - this is more of a broader observation than an individual one). In Ghana, family is basically anyone who shares any relation to you in any way. In Ghana, people buy locally produced fabrics that are sewn by local tailors and brandnames have no dominion. In Ghana, big women are beautiful and are news anchors, movie stars, models. In Ghana, in Ghana... The list goes on. And then keeps going.

So I find myself back in the land of plenty where it's not uncommon to pat ourselves on the back to say, "We should be happy we weren't born there," or where you eat the last morcel because, "There are children starving in Africa," or where pictures of emaciated black children are on a cardboard box at the local West Indian roti shop with a few pennies lie at the bottom. I don't know what to make of any of this, of any of the changes or the differences. Most of all, I don't quite know how to live myself, to let it go while at the same time never letting up.




EB said...

No matter how much we embrace it,change is not easy. We adjust to what is, and then must adjust again. After 4 months, I still keep saying, at CAS, we...., at CAS, at CAS; I know people are tired of hearing it. You have yet many changes/challenges to face - we are so looking forward to you being part of our life in NS. Sorry, not much at offering ideas, but waiting anxiously with love and hugs.

mavenmiia said...

Thanks Liz~ it makes much sense what you say and I know that feeling of entering a new job. I'm looking forward to talking about it all in person.

Thanks also for your kindness and support. It means much.

Anonymous said...

ideas are overrated. love is the thing because it cannot be place in a black box for special analysis. its a wave crashing in on shore; one of those wish-upon-things that you blow of a weed that grows in the grass and blows in the wind. ephemeral, blissful, frustrating, blinding, deceptive. the diff with love is you just accept it. welcome back. better be around in August.