It is always interesting to go back to the US and see how it feels. I think the longer I live in Panama the more I notice the differences because Panama has now become my”normal”. What differences struck me the most this time?
People in the US still seem really tall. At first I had to remind myself to speak English. Everything is expensive. I thought imported items cost a lot here but they seemed even more expensive in the US – not that I buy a lot of anything that isn’t local so I’m no expert, but just daily costs of living are much more. Everything seems neat, tidy, manicured, and cared for. There are generally no holes in the roads and sidewalks, the grass is neatly trimmed, farms are planted in rows, cities are zoned, and there are no chickens running through the neighborhoods.
Most of all, I miss the greetings. People in the US generally don’t make eye contact, don’t greet you, and are a bit startled if you greet them. It just isn’t the way things are done. When you live where everyone greets everyone, all the time, everywhere, you feel like a welcomed part of the community. That is very easy to get used to. Funny how such a simple thing can make daily life feel so different.
In the US, things feel easier. I am totally fluent in the language. Even in an unfamiliar city I have a general idea of how things work. Google will navigate you through bus transfers and roads are clearly marked. In Seattle, all traffic stops if you try to cross the road! But, easy is not what I want. I want the challenge of a new country, culture, and language. I want to see how others think, how they live, how they feel about their world. And, I want to be part of my new world. I want the everyday greetings. My trip was a wonderful and very precious time with important people, but it is also good to be home again. There is a tranquility, an openness, and a joy of living here that I really love.