10 Thoughts on Being Back in the US

1. Riding in my dad’s truck, MLK:
“So what does it feel like to be back?”
Look out the window, lines of lanes and sidewalk. “Everything feels really sterile. And clean.”
“Sterile and clean? Not usually words associated with Oakland.”
Laugh. “Yeah, I guess not.”

Empty

2. Running around the lake, joggers in sweat clothes:
Everyone looks really healthy here—big and robust, cheeks flushed.

3. Whole Foods, walk around for an hour, confused—pick up food, put it back down:
How do you shop in a grocery store? Everything looks plastic.

4. Winter-like storm, long pants and a jacket:
Everyone else may be annoyed, but I’m tickled to death.

5. Waiting to make left turn, watching the cars:
The US feels like a video game, some kind of old-school Atari: little boxes moving through space. The object of the game is to stay between the lines, stay in the lanes, walk on the sidewalk, put trash in the bin…

6. Rapture billboards:
Why?

7. Waiting to meet Nhu and Jacobo outside Bette’s Cafe, watching family:
“But I’m huuuun-greee.”
“Well, we have to wait.”
“But I don’t wa-nnnna.”
American children are allowed to be really obnoxious.

8. Wine meeting for work, varietal characteristics and spit buckets:
This is my job. This is silly.

9. Drive to meeting, park; drive to yoga, park; drive to cafe, park:
My life feels like a video game. I’m not sure what the object is.

10. Waiting at stoplight. Car beside me: bass bumping, boy leaning out of the open window, shirt half-off, arms raised, dancing:
There is nothing, nothing in the world like African-American culture.

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6 Responses to “10 Thoughts on Being Back in the US”


  1. 2 Bill May 20, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    You’re right. Re-entry is sterile and clean. The gut gets tough in a place like SE Asia, impervious to all but the vilest of parasites and bacteria, but will go soft and flabby on you in the USA. The lines and lanes and traffic signs make commutes boring back home, but who’s going to miss the brains of hit-and-run victims baking on the asphalt? No more kids with head lice pissing on doorsteps or shitting in the Tonle Sap. No more men on the roadside shaking it out on tree trunks. A lot of things are worth missing here. Some are not. Mud, dust, and dripping sweat don’t matter much. Bony dogs with mange. I feel bad about the dogs and love those club-tailed cats they have here. But the people. The people always matter, don’t they?

  2. 3 Jacob I Evans May 22, 2011 at 4:10 am

    American children are allowed to be really obnoxious. The other night I was eating dinner at a local place and the woman who owned it was feeding her kid. He wouldn’t eat so she yelled at him. He cried more so she pulled down his pants and beat his ass with a spatula in front of all of the patrons. No one did anything. The Viets just kept eating and I thought, shit, this woman is pissed, but I didn’t do anything. But how do you interfere in a culture you are not part of and don’t understand? Then the kid went back to eating his dinner and he was a bit sad, but he certainly did what he was told. In the US, this lady would get the cops called on her.

  3. 4 Sophie May 22, 2011 at 5:14 am

    Welcome back! The rapture thing is funny, check it out.

  4. 5 Nick May 25, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Happy to be home Lauren?

    Like the video game analogies… I often think that of UK.

  5. 6 Les June 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Funny what it’s like to come back after being away for so long! America can be either so welcoming or so lonely!


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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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