Post East Africa Syndrome

I’ve had several people ask me about “culture shock” or how adjusting back to the USA has been. This (nowhere-near-exhaustive) post is for those people, as well as for my fellow vagabonds adrift between cultures, especially those I shared time with in UG. This contains trite, funny musings. Maybe one day I’ll share about the deeper stuff. Like the stuff I miss so badly it hurts. Or the parts of Ugandan culture that are, in my opinion, preferable to American culture (and vice versa).

On a more serious and still Uganda-related note — check out these beautiful stories about IJM Gulu’s client Lanyero Benedeta (shout outs to my friend Scott who wrote the article and my friend Quinn who took the photos). So proud of  the bravery and tenacity of the IJM Gulu team during this case we took on in 2014. 

You may be (an American) affected by “Post East Africa Syndrome” if…

  • It has become complete second-nature to call “college” university. The time and effort it took to conform to the habit of always saying “university” has left its mark.
  • It took you a good month to not ask EVERYONE, everywhere a sincere “how are you?”. When asking this question on the phone (especially when on a very down-to-business call… ordering food, booking appointments etc.), the person on the other end is so taken aback that there’s either stunned silence, a response filled with suspicion, or sometimes even laughter.
  • You have the extreme urge to linger and show physical affection towards many people when in conversation. You want to hold hands or have extremely long handshakes.
  • Clean feet, hot showers with adequate water pressure, huge yellow-yolked eggs, reliable power, internet and cell coverage, fully-stocked grocery store shelves, potable water, and beautiful paved roads are wonderful blessings. Their value, novelty, and luxury is not lost on you.
  • People comment about your change in accent/word choices. One friend told me I sound like a British person with an American accent.
  • You are amazed and elated and internally grateful every time you eat out. The food is 1) delicious 2) hot 3) took relatively no time to arrive.
  • You have to remind yourself that Uganglish phrases like “you first,” “eh!,” “now now,” “somehow,” “I don’t have much to say,” “you have been lost,” “what-ev-ah” and countless more are not commonly used and will not be appreciated/understood.
  • Internet speeds are something to marvel at. You are shocked when you can download things and it takes minutes instead of hours.
  • It’s with pure disdain and resentment you witness the tan leave your skin and the sun-kissed-light leave your hair. Living in a sunshine-filled world always leaves you looking better. My blonde is a little too mousey these days.
  • You have trouble adding “up” or “out” to the word “pick.”
  • Apologies for lateness, loudness, being disorganized, etc. are sometimes laughable considering what was just your “normal.”
  • Wearing REAL shoes that you’re unable to kick off at work (and then subsequently walk around the office barefoot) is a rough adjustment.
  • You still FaceTime/Skype just as much as when you were abroad, because you now have even MORE people you love spread all over.
  • Wait, people expect me to wear makeup AND a bra EVERY DAY?!

I welcome additions in the comments…


4 thoughts on “Post East Africa Syndrome

  1. Bahahaha sounding like a British person with an American accent is such a good way to put it. Enjoyed reading this. On a serious note…I feel like I had to re-adjust very quickly since NYC is such an extreme place to transition post-Africa. But I stubbornly cling to my rituals of teatime and lunchtime with no work interruptions. I can tell that my colleagues think I’m incredibly rude when I put up those boundaries but… Eh, I don’t have much to say.

    Liked by 1 person

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