March 14, 2005
Preparing For Re-Entry
DAY 501: "[I have an early class tomorrow, so I probably won't have a chance to say goodbye,]" Aviv told me the night before I crashed in the living room couch (instead of David Sebastian's room where he'd be up all night writing a lab report).
"[Just wake me up, so I can say goodbye,]" I told him.
That morning, he slipped away without waking me, leaving a note instead, which I replied to underneath. It was a hard copy goodbye, for I would be out of the house and out of their lives (at least for the time being) before the day was over.
IF YOU'RE READING THIS BLOG as a guide for your own RTW planning ideas, may I suggest you do what I did: instead of going back straight to your home from a totally foreign place, spend some time in a similar country for a week to ease in the transition between your worldly travels and life back at home. As an American, this place for me was Canada, with its similar history, language, and sense of humor -- all the fun of the States, just with funnier looking money.
Helping me ease my transition to life back home was a fellow traveler who had already gone through the re-entry experience: Denise, who I had met and traveled with in Egypt. Originally from Vancouver Island, she had long returned from her own worldly travels and a three-year stint teaching English in Korea with her friend Angie. She was now going for her masters at UBC, with its campus conveniently located for both of us to meet up there.
"Do you still remember what I look like?" said the blonde with the familiar face as she met me right on time at the Pizza Pie R2 place in the student union center.
"Hey! How's it going?"
Denise was her same old self, at least from what I remembered from her, just in warmer clothes and enrolled in school. "It's sort of like high school," she told me as we walked down a hall to drop her books off at her high school-esque locker. She had started her masters program just two weeks after her return to Canada from Korea; for her, re-entry was a fast and productive one, getting ready for school, and moving off The Island to her aunt and uncle's in central Vancouver closer to UBC.
"[So how is it being back?]" I asked. She was to be my authority on dealing with Re-Entry Syndrome.
"[Well, it wasn't that bad because I prepared myself for it,]" she told me. She told me that at a certain point in their trip, they got sick of traveling and actually looked forward to being home.
"[How's it being back in school?]" I asked her.
"It's good because I had something to do." For her "re-entry" was a starting over that blended new friends and new experiences with old friends and old experiences. She told me it was harder to cut class in the masters program because she'd always sign in and leave -- but totally noticed since she was the one tall white girl amidst a predominantly short Asian class -- and it counted against her since attendance counted for something.
Being at a new home was also a tricky part for her; her uncle was quite a prankster and for some reason thought it would be funny to dump cardboard shreds all over her bed one day, just as a goof -- one act of Canadian humor I don't really get. To get back at him, she secretly replaced his credit cards with cardboard fakes, which resulted in a quite embarrassing scene when he tried to pay for something at the store. "'Uh, my niece is playing a joke on me.'""
"There has to be a Starbucks around here somewhere."
"Let's ask for directions at the coffee shop," I suggested. It was an organic coffee shop that looked very anti-Starbucks.
"We can't ask the coffee shop where the Starbucks is!"
I smirked. "Sure we can." I walked over and went inside, but they seemed really busy. Denise asked a patron sitting outside at a table and learned it was just down the street.
"ERIK!" called a voice from another table. It was a familiar face from the Spring Fling cocktail party, and I felt that in my week-long transitional stay in Vancouver I had become sort of a local -- although I was drawing a blank on her name.
"Hi... uh... I'm sorry but I don't remember your name."
Right. She was the half French/half Thai girl from the party I was dancing with at some point; Denise thought it was funny that she recognized her too, simply by reading the Blog. The Blog really puts people in the public eye, whether they like it or not.
Denise and I left Mars and eventually found the Starbucks and picked up some coffee to sip on while walking around the sites of Granville Island -- Granville Market, the Emily Carr Gallery, and the marina that overlooked the Burrard Bridge (picture above). She filled me in on the events since our departed ways in Dahab; Greg the Aussie guy in our group was apparently still there after all that time, integrated into the PADI Red Sea diving scene.
"Are we going to get shitted on?" I wondered aloud. As pleasant as it was to sit out on a bench and chat, seagulls started flying over in an aggressive way. We packed up and left.
"Can we go to Chinatown?" I requested. I had heard it was something to see.
"'You still listen to Zed [the radio station]?'" Denise quoted from one of her Vancouver friends. "'We don't listen to Zed anymore, we listen to The Beat.' And then they say, 'Oh, Denise, you're so cute.' Cute? I'm not cute, I've just been in Korea for the past three and a half years."
"Yeah, I was telling my friend whose wife is a big Tim McGraw fan about that Tim McGraw/Nelly song and he's like 'Dude, that's old.'"
She told me that there were perks to Re-Entry, like not having to worry about keeping your stuff out in a room or worrying about your bag. One great perk she told me of was the simple putting on old clothes again for the "first" time.
"Did that guy just steal a TV?" I interrupted as we walked on the border street between Chinatown and the seedy drug haven of Gastown. Walking by us was a rather scummy-looking guy rushing away with his arms wrapped around a small television set.
"I was just thinking that."
With that said, it was the end of our Vancouver tour. We ended our "date" off at a pastry shop with the thickest cakes I've ever seen before she dropped me off back at the house in Kitsilano. "Keep in touch!" I said, hugging her goodbye.
"Have fun at your party!" she said. She also reminded me to be on lookout for potential stalkers, a part of Re-Entry that she didn't have to worry about, not having a popular Blog and all.
"Great. We went around. Granville Island... Chinatown... And she's my 'girlfriend.'"
They smiled. "Yes! You're learning!" In my final hour at the house, I had finally remembered to use the on-going joke that any girl you meet up with for any reason is automatically your "girlfriend." With that said, it was a happy final goodbye for the guys and me. We hugged our manly college guy hugs and parted ways.
I was picked up by Vancouverite Anthony in his fancy Mercedes. I supposed it was poetic to end my transitional stay in Vancouver with the one person I started it with. Anthony was my final transitional person between foreign lands and the homefront, and we wrapped up final conversations when I took him out for sushi that night. Afterwards, he dropped me off at the airport so that I could catch the red-eye flight, homebound. Just like Denise, I was mentally prepared for it, what with my one-week transitional stay in Vancouver and all, and I was fully prepared to put on my old clothes for the "first" time again and hear new songs on the radio that everyone else has heard before.
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Posted by Erik on March 14, 2005 01:18 PM
Category: British Columbia