Many of us speculated about reverse culture shock. I thought it would be a trifle, nothing to worry about. I would be too happy to be home for home to feel strange and unfamiliar.
Turns out I was right.
In fact, the strangest part of the whole experience of coming home was how normal it all felt. I must have been so tired and worn from a full day of travel (across several time zones, a topic I'll come back to momentarily) that my body probably just kind of forgot where I had been. It was like pressing the reset button on my mental and emotional state. The next day, I woke up feeling like I hadn't left. I was normal.
The same could not be said for my physiological condition. Along with the gifts I brought back from Georgia, I carried a nasty little cold all those miles which culminated in a cough that persisted for two weeks. It was so bad that I couldn't sleep a couple of nights. This did nothing to help the jet lag which, I can tell you, is no joke. I was up at 3am on Christmas morning which would have been par for the course when I was 13, but I haven't been that excited about presents in many years. My internal clock didn't snap back into place for at least 5 days, and when it did, what a glorious night of sleep that was.
But some weeks have passed, giving me time to reflect on my experience. Memories come and go, wrenched forth by some minute details in my surroundings. Stories about Georgia happen just as sporadically and involuntarily. It seems like everything these days pertains to those four months spent in my little self-imposed exile, and what should I expect? It was life-changing, for better or for worse, and I suppose I'll be relaying stories to countless uninterested ears for the rest of my life. Forty years from now, I'll sit my grandson on my knee and tell him long-winded tales of marshutkas, cigarette smoke, and a Thanksgiving spent in Tbilisi. Maybe he will make the same journey I did, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, eager to see first hand what I had only spoken of meekly. Or perhaps his eyes will glaze over and he will ask me, "What, was that a part of Russia?"
Who knows. We've all got stories to tell. The people I had thought would be the most interested in my journey have asked me the fewest questions, while others find it unceasingly fascinating, unapologetically berating me with inquiry after inquiry, curious about everything that happened following my decision to travel halfway around the world to some unknown little nation the size of South Carolina. I find my mood swings wildly when I regale them with my stories; often I find myself exhausted from the effort of drawing my memories forth, eager storyteller though I am. At other times, as I have mentioned, some topic of discussion sparks an impromptu story about the long walk to my school.
Mostly, I sit in silence, still dazed from the whirlwind of experience even a month and half home.