“I’m in California.” I thought, mentally reminding myself of the fact that I had arrived in the States. “I can safely flush the toilet paper.” Just to be sure, I took a quick intake of my surroundings- the airport bathroom. No sign telling me that all paper should go in the trash and the trash was a bit farther than comfortable reaching distance. I was safe and I successfully threw the toilet paper in the proper place
I remembered sitting on “the pot” the last time I had returned to my passport country and seriously thinking of where I needed to place the paper waste. I probably spent a serious 30 seconds in one such instance, looking at the paper waste and the trash can to my side, and wondering if I could truly send it down the toilet. It seemed so foreign. This time in returning, I was prepared to be faced with these odd moments in the bathroom where two ways of dealing with a simple necessity left me confused.
However, I have been surprised.
I haven’t been as confused as I thought I would be.
If you’ve kept with me this far, you can breathe a sigh of relief as the toilet story is done (for now at least). Things, simple things that I thought would be a huge adjustment for me (because of differences or because of transitions I experienced last time) have been a lot easier than I thought. I have readjusted and am readjusting to life here in the United States much easier than I thought.
And that is shocking.
A few examples:
Rice and beans- I no longer eat them every day, but I (sadly) haven’t craved them like I thought I would (Note: beans and rice are my favorite.)
Food in general- Let’s take food in general. I am eating like an American (“What’s an American eat like?” you ask… um…). Cereal for breakfast, lighter lunch, early dinner, more pizza than I’d care to admit…
Language mishaps- I haven’t woken up speaking Portuguese randomly (yet.) The switch to using English daily and ALL DAY and being surrounded by English everything (with the occasional Spanish sign or advertisement) has been an easier transition than I was expecting. While there are times when I can’t find the correct English word or when I almost ask someone their name in Portuguese and then proceed to try to pronounce their name the way it would be said in Brazil, I am still surprised by this transition and my lack of involvement with the Portuguese language (to which a part of me freaks out about).
I am shocked.
I honestly thought I would have a harder time than I am having. Yes, there are still (many) moments of reverse culture shock, language confusion, relearning and readjusting (driving a car is like riding a bike- you never forget, right? Right, but it’s not the same driving again after not having driven for over a year…) but… I am shocked that this transition has been more natural than what I was expecting.
It makes me happy in some ways- I realize that I am more “at home” now in my parent’s new city and home (“new” as in new for me), and I know that I am more sure of myself and who I am (and I don’t have to hold onto another culture so strongly whether it be my native culture or the culture I am currently living and
working in). And while culture makes up a part of who I am, I am not defined by culture alone.
I am scared, though.
I’m scared to lose the language of Portuguese, to lose the culture, to lose… the ease of slipping into the Brazilian culture and loving it; being a sort of second nature thing.
In processing this I am seeing that rather than “force” either culture on myself (into fitting back into American culture or in holding onto Brazilian culture) I need to simply live and live in the moment. I can’t worry about when I go back to Brazil and how it will be readjusting to life there.
And for while I’m here in the U.S., I can’t worry about things I might say weird or things I might do that are different; I will take each day at a time and if I find myself on the toilet debating with myself on where I should throw the toilet paper… I’ll just laugh and move on. (After having flushed).