I’m sure that this phenomena has been noticed by all who travel—the habit of referring to a hotel room, or a guest bedroom in a friend’s house, as “home” as in, “Let’s go home and change before supper” or “We got home really late last night.” It is possible to refer to as many as 3 different locations concurrently as home, I’ve noticed.

Even though I live in Nouakchott, and have a house here filled with my books and matlas and espresso machine, with my kids’ drawings and school schedules on the fridge, I still refer to going to visit friends and family in American as “going home.” I don’t refer to returning to Africa in the same way. But really, this is home now. My way of life is here. I’m not a guest in someone else’s home, I’m not an outsider welcomed back, temporarily, into my friend’s lives.

A lot of people (ok two, but I take what I can get!) have asked me if I’m dealing with much culture shock coming back, how it feels to return to your host culture after spending time in your home culture. I have to say, it feels hot and sticky. But we weren’t gone long enough for this culture to become strange again; unlike my little breakdown in the vast fluorescent glimmer of Wal-Mart, I’m used to it here. Apparently, no one in the city has popcorn or oregano; that’s ok, we survive, the spaghetti sauce isn’t as good, we don’t have as many snacks for the beach. I’m used to this. What was strange was being able to find everything I wanted in one store—now that’s bizarre.