I like to watch people. It's been a habit of mine since I started to feel like everyone was always watching me. People are interesting. They do the weirdest things. They wear the weirdest clothes. They each react differently to the same situation. They're fun to watch.
I carried this people watching habit with me to Spain 18 months ago, and at first I was amazed at all the differences from America. Not too long after, Spanish practices began to feel and look normal, and I started to notice that people in Spain are just as weird as in America. But I never thought that America would ever be unfamiliar to me.
So, here are some things that I've had to begin readjusting to while I'm back, even though I'm leaving again in ten days.
While riding from the Philadelphia airport to a friend's house where I stayed my first few days back, I was astonished at the number of Evangelical churches on every block. Coming from a place where not being catholic is equivalent to being in a cult (join us, its bliisss...), it looked like picking a church in america was like deciding which ice cream to buy, or which restaurant to eat in. "Last time we went to the Starbucks on 34th street, but they didn't give me enough foam in my latte, let's try the one across the street today." To say it again, it was really odd to pass 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Baptist Church of Philadelphia all on the same block. And they are probably all related to one another. As my pastor here in Laramie says, "There are no such thing as Baptist church splits, only church plants."
When I met new people after arriving, they all stood really far away. I felt like my voice hurt from shouting. I knew that they wouldn't be able to decipher the words, but if they could just hear the distant murmur of my voice and understand that I was at least trying to communicate with them across the chasm that separated us, it would be a productive conversation. And meeting a girl was even more shocking. Please, keep in mind that when I went to Spain, I hated people touching me, and wanted them to stand as far away from me as possible. So, upon reentering America, I was completely shocked the first time I was introduced to a new girl and she extended her hand, indicating that she wanted a handshake, and not a kiss on each cheek. It was the most unattractive and manly thing I could imagine a girl doing, outside of giving me a high five or admitting that girls also go number two.
Last, I'll share with you about line etiquette. In Spain, you're lucky if the person working in a store actually helps you when you walk in. You know that God is with you when they just keep talking on the phone with their boyfriend while helping you. But most of the time you wait a few minutes until they semi-shout, "what do you want?" It's sort of like the episode of Seinfeld with the soup Nazi. You're scared to death and after they manhandle you for a few minutes, you exit apologetically with whatever it is you bought. But not so here in America, and especially in Wyoming. I was in Coal Creek Coffee, standing in a good sized line, when the guy behind me started talking to me. What is he doing? Why is he talking to me? I don't even know him. Then I get to the cash register to order, and the girl working starts to chit chat with me. "Please stop! Treat me bad! Swear at me, just don't be nice to me! I only wanted a coffee!!"
Anyway, a little view into the world of someone readjusting to life in a very polite culture after living in Spain. America is awesome and so is Spain, and I'm sure every other culture once you begin to understand where they are coming from.
Today I'm thankful for the ten days that separate me from Valerie. I guess I'm not so much thankful for the days themselves as I am that yesterday there were eleven and tomorrow there will only be nine.