I’ve been back for five days now and my thoughts are still scattered, not because I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of what I’ve done or anything so grand and arrogant as that. It’s more that my days are full of small, busy, pleasant tasks that occupy me enough that I don’t spend a lot of time sitting around contemplating Deep and Meaningful Things. Consequently this post is simply a random collection of thoughts from the last week, but you should really be used to that by now.
It was great to get back and be greeted by Karen and Steve, who met me at the airport and stood up and cheered and waved their arms and rang cowbells in the morgue-like arrival hall when I emerged from US Customs. Thanks guys!
Yep, Karen and Steve have been great – offering their spare room, wifi password and kitchen, even if their stupid gas oven is stupid and their stupid smoke detector is even stupider. Here’s a tip: when preparing to cook two pounds of bacon, first remove the battery from the smoke detector in the hallway. Or as an alternative, use the smoke detector as a signal of when to remove the trays of bacon from the oven. I like to call this the Mom Method. (Hi Mom! Love you!)
Why was I cooking two pounds of bacon? (Aside from the fact that two pounds of bacon is an inherently good thing in and of itself.) Well Karen and Steve are generously throwing me a Welcome Home party tonight and we decided that it would be necessary to have some kind of Weird Food to offer. Unfortunately the stock of pig ears, mopane worms and black jelly was shockingly low at the local Superstore, so we decided chocolate covered bacon would be challenging enough to be in the right spirit, and easy to prepare (it does only have two ingredients after all). So that’s why I was cooking up a mess o’ bacon, which Karen and I spent a happy morning dipping in melted dark chocolate wafers. The result was, I think, the apotheosis of the chocolate covered bacon form, and far surpasses the Santa Cruz Boardwalk variety. The differences are many. First we bought maple-smoked bacon, and cooked it to chewy perfection, as opposed to the American variety which was at the overcooked crumbly charcoal stage. Also we chose dark chocolate instead of milk, and after dipping we scraped off some of the excess coating to achieve the perfect chocolate-to-bacon ratio. And we left a small bit of bacon exposed at one end of each strip, which we dubbed the “Bacon Handle” and has the effect of being a convenient place to grab, and shows off the fact that there really is bacon in there. And when we taste-tested the cooled pieces later this morning? Well, let’s just say that chocolate covered bacon has rocketed to the top of Karen’s list of favourite things, and with good reason.
Besides experimenting in the kitchen, I’ve been letting lots of people buy me lunch. Apparently I’m going to be dining out on my adventures for a long while. It’s been really nice to connect with friends I haven’t seen in a while, though I’m already getting a bit tired of the questions. “What’s it like to be back?” “What was your favourite place?” “How are you adjusting? Isn’t it culture shock?” “Are you finally going to wear some different clothes?” “Are you contagious? If I stand too close will I catch anything?” Blah, blah, blah. The answers, in short are:
- Nice. Boring. Good. Weird. Normal. Exactly the same as when I left.
- Seriously? I went to 123 different cities, towns or discrete geographic locations. You want me to pick ONE PLACE?
- Just fine, thanks. No.
- Yes. Thank GOD.
- I’ll let you know, the test results aren’t back yet.
Being back has been strange and not. For instance, I thought it would be odd to drive again after a year but there wasn’t a even a moment of hesitation or awkwardness when I got behind the wheel. It was like no time had passed since I’d last stepped on the accelerator; the weird thing was actually how NOT weird it was. I drove downtown and had to cruise past my old workplace while I was looking for parking. (Note: It turns out that looking for parking is one of the things I did not miss at all, and I didn’t even realize it.) Driving in that neighbourhood was weird because it was sooooo familiar. I guess I got used to everything being new and different all the time, so it was shocking to round a corner and see a view that was so deeply etched into my brain that I felt like I could have driven it with my eyes closed. (I didn’t.)
Already the trip seems a bit remote, and when I think back to the early parts it’s kind of like a dream. I’ll be talking to someone, relating stories about the traveling and remember something startling like the fact that I walked with lions in Africa, and I can’t believe it’s possible I could have forgotten something like that. And that leads to the story about swimming at the edge of Victoria Falls or hot air ballooning over Turkey, and I start to feel a bit arrogant or something. I sense that for the rest of my life I’m going to be able to pull out a travel-related anecdote on just about any subject imaginable. “Ah yes, the bi-metallic question. Fascinating. That reminds of a strange thing that happened to me in Mto Wa Mbu. Oh, you don’t know it? Charming little town in Tanzania. Grow a lot of bananas there. Anyways as I was saying, there I was in Mto Wa Mbu…” It’s all a bit traveler-than-thou, if you know what I mean. I apologize in advance for this, and you should all feel free to yawn pointedly if I get too tedious.
And here’s something I’ve been waiting about a year to sample: Pam’s Normal Food! This morning after my run I got to have a boring old favourite that used to be a staple part of my diet. It's nothing special, which is the whole point – just a toasted whole wheat bagel sandwiching an egg, cheese and sliced tomato.
It only took about a day and a half for me to start feeling a bit lost and aimless. It’s true that I’m back in Canada and my round-the-world traveling is over, but I’m still going to be living out of suitcases for the foreseeable future. Don't forget that I have no job and no house, so I'm very uprooted right now. I need to start looking for work, but I think that process is going to be a slow one, and it’s a bit discouraging that I really don’t know when or where I’ll finally have somewhere to hang my hat. I’m really starting to crave having my own space. This is partly because I went and investigated my storage locker to make sure that everything was still ok, and so I could retrieve a suitcase of clothes. Therefore the bedroom I’m camped in seems absolutely crammed with stuff and I feel a bit overwhelmed by it. Then I realized that it’s really not much stuff at all – a grand total of two suitcases and one box. It’s just that I have nowhere to put it all to keep it organized. I used to dream about passports and airline tickets and exotic locations. Now I dream about having a closet.
So that’s the state of the union five days after touchdown: essentially fine, if a bit aimless. Now has anyone seen where I put my black running socks? I’m sure they were in the second pile from the left…