Friday, August 11, 2006

Reentry by Nicola Jane Barratt

It always takes me a while to readjust to America. And as much as I hate flight connections, I think it's important to stop midway between the third world and the US. Not that England or France aren't the first world - they just aren't the hyper first world. If anything the Uk and France have a much more sensible approach to life, more restrained - smaller cars, smaller houses, smaller parking lots, smaller appliances...

But here I must digress and admit to my addiction to giant American appliances. I love my huge American fridge – with shelves in the doors that hold Gallon milk jugs, gallon ice tea jugs, gallon jugs of orange juice, shelves designed to hold "fridge packs" of a dozen soda... And my giant American washer and dryer that easily hold 20 towels or twenty pairs of shorts and twenty T-shirts. Because of course, what American doesn't take a fresh towel every time they shower or throw on a clean pair of shorts every couple of hours? - none in my family! No matter how many times I explain that there is no maid here, only Mommy. Of course, this laundry requires giant American laundry hampers also for the gang to throw all those towels and T-shirts towards, never in, mind you, just towards!

But landing at Heathrow is sort of halfway home. The plane often ends up parking in what I call the back lot - where you have to clamber down this steep flight of stairs onto the tarmac - dragging hand luggage and small children, then climb onto a bus that takes you to the terminal. This would never be tolerated in America. A recent BA flight attendant admitted to me that she'd never touched down in the US and not had a jetway allow her to walk straight from plane to terminal. I nodded in agreement, only adding that at some small airports in sunny locations, such as Key West, there were no jetways.

Immigration in the US is your first real smack in the face from this hyper capitalist first world nation. Both the new facilities at JFK and Newark must have cost more than the entire annual budget of Zambia. They're vast, lofty warehouses with expansive glass walls and at least a hundred counters of scowling officials waiting to check your passport. Giant flatscreen TVs blair CNN - letting you know that the capitalists are king here and only their version of world events will be tolerated.

Then there's the rain - it's a temperate climate so it rains all year round - not used to that - maybe that's why everyone is so obsessed with the weather - it's so unpredictable. You have to put the car windows up, even though the car gets roasting hot. Sometimes you have to get up in the middle of the night to close the windows, especially those sliding doors - boy can a lot of water accumulate really rapidly when you leave those open! You have to take the cushions off the patio furniture and store them inside - but, where? They're big and there's a lot of them cause its hot - u can't sit inside most of the time.

But there's the food! Wow, there's a lot of different kinds of food here. There's lots of food that comes from the ocean - crabs and clams and mussels and lobsters and all different kinds of true fish and they all taste lovely drowned in butter and garlic and wine! And there's the Italian style pork products - basil sausage, sweet sausage, hot sausage, capicola, mortadella, pepperoni - all so good on a sandwich or a hoagie or a sub. Great on pizza, great on the grill. Noone Kosher or Halaal running the markets and restaurants here!

Then there's delivery. OK we all love to internet shop, and I do plenty, especially in those first days when culture shock doesn't allow me out of the house much and jet lag has me up at odd hours. But here in Wildwood (yes, Jeff and I found a town called Wildwood to buy a house in!) you can get any kind of food imaginable delivered right to the door and usually for no extra charge. Crab cakes...

But the best part is the sunsets from the back decks. Watching the sun set over the water is what I miss most when we aren't here. Watching the colors fade from blue to violet to pink to orange to red, as the boats bring the fishermen home and the gulls circle and cry, finding their nests for the night. A warm breeze on your skin, flushed with a little sunburn from a day at the beach. Cool glass of something in hand, dripping little beads of condensation onto the deck, little music from the house next door...

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