Whenever we go back to the United States, our homeland, there are always certain things that shock us. There are some things you can prepare yourself for ahead of time, and some things come at you unexpectedly. The part that is difficult to wrap my brain around is that no matter how much I want to be prepared, no matter how much I bolster my emotional energy, I am still surprised by certain things. How is a person shocked, even though they know, I mean really KNOW that what is ahead will be a shock to the system? Isn’t the whole point of something being shocking is that you don’t expect it? Maybe a good analogy is when you are a kid and you purposely touch an electric fence and you know you will be jolted, but you do it anyway. The only part of that analogy that doesn’t work is that I don’t go into the experiences in the U.S. for the jolt; I just know it will happen. One of the most mind numbing jolts is going to a supermarket in the U.S. Just a plain old grocery store makes me go numb; a super Wal-Mart makes me want to cry from the overwhelming emotions. Weird, I know. And the hardest part is that the emotions can’t be put in a box: not sadness, not joy, not panic… slightly depressed, totally overwhelmed and overstimulated. Yes, overstimulated is the right phrase. And I know every time that it is going to happen! So, I make it a point to buy one and only one fun thing to eat and enjoy on every trip to the store. Because I can’t focus on taking it all in: one time it was Breyer’s lime bars, the next: mint double stuffed Oreos, the next cinnamon pop tarts, the next cool ranch Doritos.
And I think the part that makes the whole experience depressing is that the one little taste of American “something” is not very fulfilling. It is too overwhelming to plan a whole meal and further more I haven’t had my own kitchen when returning to the U.S. either, so I can’t just plan out a meal and I think that is part of the depressing part. In Kyrgyzstan I have gotten good at planning out wholesome well rounded meals, and often I will glance over recipes that call for ingredients I can’t get and think, “That would be fun to make in the States…” but that experience has so far eluded me. Someday, I will make my peace with American grocery stores again. For now, I am back to shopping in my comfortable little corner stores and bazaars in Karakol.