‘Good luck with re-entry back into the real world’. I often think about this comment a friend made to me years ago upon arriving back into Australia after galavanting for a year and half overseas. I spend around 9 months of every year away from ‘home’ (whatever that means now) and every return is a challenge. I’ve changed. My perspective on the world has changed. And so often home hasn’t.
I flew back from living and working in Africa a few weeks ago and feel completely lost. It was not my first time in Africa – I had travelled there three times before – but somehow the impact this time was greater. I feel dispirited by the problems of the first world and the convenience of life back in Australia. Every trip to the supermarket, with their shiny, identical vegetables piled high and dejected checkout scanners, depresses me. I miss the corner store where the carrots are still covered in dirt and the grocer passionately communicates, despite not speaking the same language.
I buy fish half-heartedly at the supermarket, craving the fisherman’s banter as he unloads his catch to shore, before scaling and cleaning his daily pick for me. I miss the evenings when a young boy turned up at my apartment door in Morocco to sell a freshly caught octopus that was slung over his wrist.
The talk of developed world luxuries, like prams and insurance and superannuation, bore me, along with the pretense of tailored latte orders – decaf, skim, soy, half-full, 3/4 full. I miss being piled up with somebody’s groceries whilst squeezed into a minivan bus negotiating the organised chaos of an African city.
I’m startled to life by the mechanical beep of my alarm at first light with an emptiness that the call-to-prayer didn’t wake me first, allowing me to drift back into a blissful slumber.
The urgency of life here is daunting and I long for the shy smiles of people waiting for nothing, just watching the world go by.
I went to my local library the other day, as I often do on days off, and a man I had seen there previously was hanging around outside. Sometimes he dances in the carpark to music in his head, today he was lighting up a joint as business men and women hurried past on their way to monotonous jobs they endured to buy things they thought would make life better. This man is not from Australia – it is more than just his skin colour that tells me that. He is from somewhere that ‘convenience’ hasn’t spread like the plague, and happiness isn’t measured by the size of your TV. Somewhere that you can dance when you feel like it. The first couple of times I saw him I thought he was crazy, but now i think its our society that’s lost the whole point of living. We’re so busy accumulating, organising, compartmentalising, that the beauty of daily life has been lost. I thought i belonged here, but now i’m not sure.