First reaction upon returning to Washington, D.C., where both LeeAnne and I have lived for over a decade: “Wow! It’s really small! Where are all of the people? Where is all the traffic? And pollution, what happened to that?” then “And Green! Geez, there are trees everywhere!” I do not think that these are reactions that most visitors to the nationals capitol often have. But, you’ll have to remember that we’ve been traveling in China where a city of half a million like Washington DC is considered a village, and in India where sidewalks (to say nothing of intentionally planted trees and bushes) are remarkable.
This is part of the culture shock that you hear so many returned travelers suffer from. Suffer is the wrong word, it’s just a acclimation to a place you know after having your expectations (in this case expectations about overcrowding, traffic and green space) dramatically changed. I really didn’t expect to be affected by it, but there we were gapping at how small our adopted city now seemed to us.
After the better part of a year out on the road, our first objective when back home was not to see old friends, visit any of our favorite places or check in on our old colleagues, all this could wait. We needed to go directly to our storage unit and get some fresh clothes! You can’t understand the joy of putting on “new” old clothes (that you already own) until you have worn the same seven pair of underwear for nine months. Going to storage that day was like going on a shopping spree somewhere that carries only clothes you love in your size. We immediately retired the clothes we had carried abroad, and vowed never to wear them again.
Next on our list of things to do was to catch up with people. A lot can change in nine months. For example: it’s exactly long enough to have a baby. A few of our friends that we left as couples were families when we returned. A few others now have buns in the oven. People have changed jobs, cities and living situations – and we thought we had been busy. There’s a lot to catch up on.
Including our own neighborhood! It’s very different up in the land between Columbia Heights Metro and Georgia Avenue. There’s a freaking Starbucks up in the ghetto now! And restaurants: there are now options beyond the all-night Wings-Gyros-Chinese corner shops on Georgia and 14th Street – amazing! It’s like a yuppie bomb went off while we were gone and now there are food and services for people in our neighborhood!