Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jetlag & Culture Shock

Last night Nyamulagira erupted. No villages are near it but endangered chimps may be injured in the lava flow. I wonder how red the sky glowed. I wonder if the sky looked like sunrise at 3:45 am. I've been in Pittsburgh* so I didn't see it.

Tomorrow morning I leave Pittsburgh & begin the 40 hour trek back to Goma. This has been a veryveryvery fast holiday break and for most of it I have been jetlagged. I fell asleep on my neighbors' couch during Christmas dinner.

My flight isn't until 6:15 am but my father is driving me to the airport. Father believes in getting to the airport at least 16 hours ahead of the time your flight will be boarding. Right now it is 4:30 pm, and, to be honest, I'm a bit surprised we haven't already left. Haha. Anyway, we will probably leave at about 2 am. I want Dad to drive me the long way around, via the top of Mount Washington, so I can stand in the sky and look down over my dark city before I fly away: The pinprick lights of the stars above me; the pinprick lights of the skyscrapers below.

But because we drove to the top of Mount Washington just today, and because it will be the middle of the night and we will be stressed and tired, I think this is a want that I will not receive.

My close friend J has been visiting this vacation. She is from a mid-sized village in the North of Uganda. The culture of my family at Christmas involves dressing in short black dresses and ascot suits, drinking a lot of champagne, and eating finger foods, fancy cheeses, and caviar. That is not the whole story: there are also bowls of chips and football talk. But the country club with its crystal chandeliers and black high heels is a part of it. J was sometimes overwhelmed by this, um, very understandably. And what did she think it all? I don't know, I have no clue. My friends and family, wallowing blindly in our merry excess, truly did like her a lot. Nobody said anything too embarrassing (only one person referred to Africa as a country, in my hearing).

Because I spend my life stumbling from cultural gaffe to language-barrier confusion to overwhelming travel shock, and because J was so patient with me in Uganda, I was thrilled for the chance to try to reciprocate her hospitality. I, in my holiday-exhaustion, was not always the outgoing hostess I should have been. But it was great fun for me to have her visiting.

*Best city in the world, for those of you (sadly) unacquainted with it.