So I’m working on part 3 of the shipping news, as it were, but the house we’re staying in has internet issues, so it’s taking me a while. In the meantime, we are settling back, re-adjusting. I notice everytime I return to the US I deal with something different. For example, I no longer forget that dryers and dishwashers exist, like I did the first time, when my mother-in-law asked me in surprise why I was washing the dishes  by hand when she had a machine to do that for me. But I keep forgetting that the flush for a toilet is on the side, not on top. We can’t get used to the quiet of the streets, without constant horns. We can’t get used to cars stopping slowly, carefully, as we put our toes on the very edge of a crosswalk.

There’s that same numbness, when you drive through forests and forests of green, ivy draped like a blanket from tree to tree. The richness, the prodigal beauty everywhere for the taking, the freeway edges overflowing with pink and white roses and glowing purple foxgloves, somehow escapes your grasp. On some level you know this is yours; this is for you. It’s your heritage, your true home, in a way that sand-coloured stones and enticing arches are not. But at the same time it seems beyond you.

The wooly grey clouds soothe you.  You eat at your favorite restaurants. You drive through your old neighbourhoods. And still, at some level, you are lost.  And then suddenly, without knowing why, you adjust. You have both lost and gained a world.

When we left Rabat a week ago, our flight from Paris to Boston was delayed by 3 hours, so we missed our connection to Portland. Air France put us up in the airport Hilton. It was a fine way to start reverse culture shock. We had a voucher to eat supper at the restaurant–$25 each. Imagine our shock when we found that would only buy us hamburgers and sandwiches, and a couple of desserts to share. The food was tasty, the portions too large (as always in American restaurants), and we felt that mix of judgement and enjoyment that comes with a return to a more affluent culture. The towels were about four inches thick, and the pillows nothing more than layers of softness. I didn’t sleep much, but as I woke throughout the night I would swim my legs down in the cool crisp sheets and feel utterly comfortable and content.

In the morning, we ate cold leftover apple pie and bread pudding for breakfast, since they hadn’t given us breakfast vouchers. The day was extra long–they couldn’t get us on a nonstop flight, so we had a layover in Minneapolis, where we made lists of books we wanted at a bookstore, had our first Starbucks, and munched on peanuts and pretzels I’d bought at Marjane in Rabat in case they didn’t feed us. Which they didn’t. By the time we’d arrived in Portland, it was evening by our body clocks and all we’d eaten was a few bites of dessert and some tiny bags of pretzels and peanuts. Yum.

Friends met us at the airport, which was pretty awesome. Makes you feel loved. Apparently some more people came the night before and met the flight we were supposed to be on, but we didn’t find that out till later.

Houses, cars, schools–we need them. We’re searching. But today, the sky is blue, and we’re going to take a hike down the Columbia River Gorge.

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