Monday, July 2, 2012

Successful Reentry
By Michael

Frances showing off the gap from her
first tooth lost. I guess that was her
response to reenty.
When Windy and I sailed in to Key West from Cuba back in 1997, we’d been out of the U.S. for only seven months, yet my culture reentry shock was profound. We arrived at dusk and I remember leaving the boat that night eager to wander Key West streets in search of pizza and beer. Both were easy to come by within a few blocks--summertime blocks filled with drunk college kids and strewn with seemingly obnoxious tourists. As silly as it seems now, I had some kind of a breakdown right then and returned to the boat.

Things seemed relatively normal the next day and I’ve since learned from others that my reentry experience is not all that unique. In 1997 I was both overwhelmed by the social-cultural disparity shock and jubilant at having completed a voyage that was very significant to me. I may also have had a delayed reaction—a kind of release—following our difficult passage from Columbia to Cuba.  I’ll never be sure.
So I was pleased my return to the U.S. this spring, having been south of the border for ten months, didn’t trigger the same emotions. I think that traveling in our twenties, our youthful perspectives made it easy to lose ourselves—figuratively—in the places we visited. It was easy to sink into the rhythm of the respective cultures and be more deeply affected by our experiences. Our travels seem much less profound this time around (and yet maybe more interesting?).

Am I weary? Jaded? Maybe just older. I sailed off this time with more realistic expectations. And kids ground you too. To Eleanor and Frances, there is nothing terribly important or exotic about what we are doing; we’re just living our family life. They have needs, we’re meeting them, and we’re trying to throw in some interesting experiences along the way. Whether that is happening in Mexico, Timbuktu, or Washington, D.C. doesn’t seem to make any difference to them.

At 12, Captain Ryan is the girls' oldest cousin. He's an ace
water polo player and eager to head out for an overnight
trip to the islands with us. I don't think those are
his beers pictured.

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