Monday, August 2, 2010

My hotel had a sign that said, "Welcome to Your Country!"

Welcome to your country. We’ve cranked the a/c up. No trouble –we thought you’d enjoy it. Help yourself to the sushi, the blueberries, the hot pretzels, the Cinnabon, the sandwiches – watch out for the aoli – and we’ll get started.

First, a few general notes:

It’s hot outside right now – easy for you to acclimate, we hope. Some time in the next couple of months, though, you’ll notice you’re sweating less behind your knees, and the mosquitoes are going away. Eventually, leaves will change color and days will get shorter and there will be a magic crispness to the air and you will realize: it’s fall. Finally. Appreciate it, okay? Because something tells us winter will be rough for you this year.

Some things in your country may seem smaller than you remember. Others (buildings over 2 storeys tall, for example) will probably make you a little giddy. Just walk around a little and soak it in. You’ll most likely start feeling to scale after a couple of weeks.

Your country has been here all along. Remember this when you feel the urge to marvel at how clean the floors are, or how patiently people are waiting in line, or how very sales-oriented everything seems to be. Remember that we’ve been living our lives as you’ve been (we assume) living yours. Congratulate us on getting real jobs and finding nice apartments and having babies – we appreciate it! Then, tone it down and try to find something normal to talk about. For more specific ideas, see below.

Culture
You may be overwhelmed by the volume of movies, music, books and “new media” to catch up on. Don’t worry. It’s still August, and we’re going to read beach books and watch reruns and blame it all on the heat. You should probably figure out about Hulu and Netflix before September, though.

You can’t go too far wrong with movies: you’ll find that pretty much anything looks amazing in a real movie theater, especially now that we have 3D. Sometimes things may start to feel too big, too slick, or too bright; but within these things, pieces will resonate. Trust us. Watch the airport scene near the end of “Inception,” with all the strangers who know each other; watch Leonardo DiCaprio get waved through customs and welcomed home. You can make this part the emotional center, if you want. We groaned at the end, too. It’s all right if you feel like you really need for the top to stop spinning.

Pop music will also offer you its own little toeholds. Try turning up the radio whenever “Riding Solo” comes on, for example. You can do a little fist pump, too. Remember, you have your own car now.

Shopping
You can buy many, many things in your country. Quick tip: don't multiply the cost of everything by 25 or 30. This will only depress you. Focus instead on what you can buy with these hundreds of dalasis. For example:

The shoe selection is pretty exciting in your country. You’ll be interested to know that – in addition to name-brand sneakers, ballerina flats, and high heels you can wear on the street, because the street isn’t made of sand – we stock a lot of ankle boots. Many have jewels or tassels on them, and some are even available in a summery sandal style! Perhaps this will help ease your transition to actual shoes.

If you're wondering how to cover the rest of your body, we are still rocking the skinny jeans and learning to mix plaids and floral prints. We’re also into things that might be little dresses, or might be long shirts, and are kind of see-through. What do you mean, these don’t even look like clothes? We look cute. The secret is to layer.

Speaking of things that might be shirts or might be dresses, it’s okay to show your knees in your country. You’ll probably want to shave your legs first, though. Sorry, we don’t sell the blades that fit your old razor anymore. There’s a 3-blade minimum now.

Despite rumors to the contrary, people in your country do not yet have flying cars. We have smart phones, which are better.

Getting Around
Public transportation is pretty good in your country. You’ll be flummoxed by the fare cards in cities other than New York, but you’ll get your own seat, and usually a/c too.

The DeCamp bus still leaves from gates 412 and 413 at Port Authority. The fastest way up is still the stairs by the Duane Reade, then the escalator behind Drago Shoe Repair. The 33 (Grove) is still the sweetest option, unless you’re leaving after hours. Remember when you were 16 and your dad walked you through so you’d know where to go? It’s all still here, and it all still smells pretty much the same. We do try to keep some things unchanged.

Don’t look at everyone you see on the bus, train, or subway, thinking maybe you know them. You probably don’t. Some of them will turn out to be people that you went to high school with, or who used to date a friend of yours. In this case, you probably won’t remember their names. It’s okay – there are a lot of us. We got taller, or fatter, or hipper, or sadder. A lot of us got married. All of us got older. And we forgot about you a little, too. You were in Africa, right?

2 comments:

Jen said...

Hey Blair, my Google News Gambia digest sent me your blog again, and I loved your Welcome Home entry! It really made me smile. Good luck with your settling-in readjustment process.
Cheers,
Jen H. :)

mchughtie said...

Remember, in your country, disposable phones/pre-paid calling are not for the gainfully employed. Changing your number every 2 weeks is not considered cool. Realize that you will pay for calls you receive, even though the person calling you also pays. Notice that your bill will be about $2000 dollars more than you expected the first month, until you admit that you need to upgrade your plan. If no one else wants to make sure you are planted here firmly for the next two years, your cell phone provider will do the honors.