Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Little Turbulence

It's genuinely pleasurable to see old friends, though people are a bit shell-shocked following their returns. Being at a confluence point makes us vulnerable, I suppose. Certainly I'm no different. Trying to chat with one friend in the cafeteria about MS brought back a feeling I hadn't experienced since first being diagnosed: a sense of being no longer fully human. It wasn't an unkind or even very in-depth conversation, but suddenly I was back sitting listless and cross-legged on the hospital bed, arms unfurled grotesquely, body swelling to fill the room like a fleshy eclipse. The profoundly isolating notion that no one would ever touch me again except in that de-humanizing, pitying way you touch a patient was immediate and devastating; to feel it again after so long and in such an innocuous situation was strange. I found I couldn't look at my friend as I talked.

Earlier in the day my hand had shook as I practiced writing 'baa' on the whiteboard, so that the letter was scrunched and malformed. "My hands are bothering me today," I'd wanted to explain -- wanted to, but didn't. This is something I hadn't anticipated missing from Osaka: the freedom to say casually, "I'm having some trouble" and take a moment to step out in the hallway and press my body against the icy stairwell wall until the tremors stopped. Here, I take the jacket on off on off, trying to get it right. I don't think it's sympathy that I miss, but more like affirmation: "Yes, this is happening; no, you're not crazy. Just keep going."

Anyways, I'm re-norming. FSI was bound to be a little weird.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reverse Culture Shock

RCS #1: Drew Carey has replaced Bob Barker as the host of The Price is Right. Drew reports that Bob was "cool with it." I am not so sure that I am "cool with it."

RCS #2: My US cellphone. It only sends a maximum of 160 characters per text message, the camera isn't even 1 megapixel, and THERE'S NO PLACE TO ATTACH A CELLPHONE STRAP. Is this some sort of joke? And people wonder why we're losing the war on drugs.

RCS #3: Tipping. You have a nice dinner, some coffee, maybe a little conversation... and then, boom!, math. Come on America - surely there's a better way.

Monday, February 18, 2008

ただ今

At some point -- I think while cowering beneath my office desk curled into the fetal position -- my moving-induced frustration magically gave way to a mellow sense of "all-is-right-with-the-world"-ness. In a flash, I read the alignment of the planets, I felt the pulse of the State Department's heart... I ate a stale senbei I found on the floor, and emerged refreshed and centered. Things would work out. And indeed, they have worked out, because here I am in the San Francisco airport, eating an oversized sandwich, drinking bottled water, and generally reacquainting myself with My Own Kind. Ah, America... I love what you've done with your hair, very mod. And is it just me, or have you lost weight? (No? Right, sorry. But you look fabulous, fabulous.)

Oh, I could use some sleep.

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In the end, it was an anti-climactic departure. For my office goodbye party we ordered in curry, and the other officers gave me a commemorative t-shirt they had designed. I liked that it was low-key. Other than occasional heart-stopping glimpses of an overwhelming, unbroken horizon -- the abyss that is Arabic -- I'm feeling appropriately removed from things. Sort of blank. The goal for 2008: a little less drama. And maybe lose 5 pounds.

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1am and Law & Order is showing on three different cable channels. Good to know there are still constants in America.