So those were some of the basic differences we noticed right away coming back. But we also had some reverse culture-shock. Some people say the culture-shock is worse coming back to your own country after living abroad. I think it's better though when you expect it, we didn't expect to come back and things to just be normal again, we knew there'd be an adjustment. One of the first things we noticed was how connected people are now to the Internet, everyone has fancy phones they're constantly typing on, it's a little annoying. It was nice to be somewhat detached from that overseas. People here are becoming more detached from real conversations and interactions when they're just using facebook or things online to communicate. And it's very easy here to go days without having real interactions with people- you can sit at home online or shop around malls or places and not really talk to anyone, and the neighborhoods are more isolated - you can't walk down the street and be in town. In Tonga if you left your house you were greeted by every person you saw in town just blocks away, and even if you didn't leave the house the neighbors would come over to chat. You just had no option of isolating yourself. And commercialization, what can I say. In Tonga, you wore whatever clothes you had, no matter if they didn't match or were stained. You couldn't even buy clothes on our island, unless they had them at the market on Saturdays and then they were used old clothes that probably wouldn't fit. People didn't buy decorative vases, pictures, pillows, etc. for their houses. They just had the basics that were needed, sometimes not even that. Most of the time you sat on the floor and that was perfectly fine. We didn't have many options for shopping on our island because it was so hard to get stuff to our island. We already know what the stores are like here, but still knew it would be a little bit of a shock. At first we avoided going shopping. Then we went to the mall with Brett's family, I started converting prices to Tongan and things are so expensive here! We went to the Mac store, and I was overwhelmed by all the things they had, knowing that on our island computers are so old and constantly breaking down. Later Brett and I went to Target, and that was the biggest culture-shock I had coming back - just seeing row after row of all these products and things that we couldn't get on our island, but here they had a whole row of selection. For example body wash, which we couldn't get in Ha'apai, but here there was a whole row and it all looked the same - moisturizing, deep moisturizing, hydrating, sensitive skin, exfoliating, etc. I had to stop and breathe, and just grab one after looking at them all for 5 minutes or so. Walking around I glanced over at the food section, saw a huge row of different spices, and had to look away again. Brett said he had the same overwhelming feeling when we were shopping at a department store. I kept handing him dress shirts I was finding, and it was all so much and he said he was just thinking he didn't want any of them - he just wanted to wear scrubby t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops like in Tonga where fashion didn't matter. Here we have to dress up again.
So that's a little description of how we've been dealing with coming home to America. Thanks again to all our friends and family, it's been great seeing people again and sharing stories about life in Tonga. And we are missing the hot weather now, as we sit in about 4 degrees fahrenheit weather here, and we miss all our friends back there. We also turned our cell phones back on (our old cell phones look ancient compared to the new technology now), and we bought a cheap vehical to get around in. I have had a few job interviews scheduled already, so we'll see how things go.
A little update we just heard from Tonga - they suspended travel for volunteers on the only ferry because it's under investigation for safety issues. It actually left port and headed to the outer islands when it wasn't supposed to just recently. So it might be hard to get supplies now in Ha'apai if the ferry has to stop. And they might be moving volunteers off the outer islands in Ha'apai, since the ferry is the only mode of transportation to get to those islands. Good luck to everyone that's still there, hopefully they will get a new ferry soon.