Change is hard.  On the American Airlines plane from Mexico City, I heard the flight attendant speaking English in what was clearly an American accent, but I couldn’t help but speak to her in Spanish at first.  We transferred planes in Dallas, and as I approached the clerk at one of the convenience stores I started to think about what I needed to say, again, in Spanish.   When I went into the restroom I saw a man rinsing his mouth with tap water.  I had a little panic attack for the man before I remembered it was safe to do that there.

We also find ourselves looking for opportunities to break larger bills (twenties) and wanting to hoard small bills and change.  This is because in San Miguel, like many other places we’ve been, money is given out by the banks in bills too large to use at most businesses we frequent.  When we do go to a larger business or a nicer restaurant, we are thrilled at the opportunity to break a 100 peso (about $8) or 200 peso bill (about $16) and get smaller change.  It took a couple of purchases here in the States for it to sink in that we could break a twenty almost anywhere, and we could use the small bills whenever we wanted.

Amy experienced moments of transition on our trip up and during these first few days, too, but the biggest shift in thinking for her has been in the car.  In San Miguel, we’re in a motorized vehicle only about every 5 days, and usually that’s a bus, so Amy is still in the mode of thinking we should be on the left side of the road from her days driving in Ireland (she hasn’t driven since we left there months ago).  A couple of times while I’ve been driving here in Oregon, Amy has commented, “I really should not drive here – I keep thinking you should turn in to the left lane.”  Since I almost never drove in Ireland, my brain wasn’t rewired quite so much, but I do admit to being much more aware and cautious as I drive, since I’m afraid I’m going to mess up, having driven only a handful of times over the last two years.

The biggest surprise for us, though, is how we’re NOT reacting to being home.  Person after person told us before we left Mexico that we were in for a real culture shock when we got home, and more than one person has warned us that the sheer variety in the stores can be overwhelming to see.  Our friend Ivy told of returning to America after a year away and walking into a big store for the first time.  She began speaking to the jars of spaghetti sauce:  “There are so many of you.  Why are you all here?”  She couldn’t even buy anything on that first trip to the store.

So, when Amy and I went to the Fred Meyer, I told her I was going to go commune with the spaghetti sauce, but I didn’t start speaking to it.  Everything here has seemed so normal, so natural, that we haven’t experienced the culture shock at all, at least not yet.  We have a theory or two on why that is.  First, so many people warned us about it that we really thought a lot about what it would feel like to come back home.  Second, we’ve been to around 20 countries in the last two years, so we have gotten used to experiencing new cultures.