Back in the spring, when I grudgingly posted on Facebook (and admitted to friends not on FB) that our next assignment was going to put us back in Calgary, the general response was "How exciting" and "Welcome back to civilization" and other similar things that made me cringe.
I'd lived in Calgary for six years before, the same as I had in SE Asia, and I had a preference. It's not the one that people probably would have guessed if they'd been reading either of my blogs back in 2007 when we moved to Thailand. I'm getting a little tired of hearing that I should be thrilled to be back in North America from people who … well, don't really have the same lived-there-for-many-years basis for comparison.
I don't like the notion that life here must be so superior. I could easily argue that it isn't.
Sure, Calgary (and Canada or the USA) has some material things that I appreciate, like better quality food (even if our fruit and vegetables are shipped in from far away for part of the year). I like knowing that the milk isn't adulterated with hormones and that the plants outside having been doused in DDT. It's nice having our own car. It's nice being able to purchase children's medication at the drugstore and not have to wonder if it's counterfeit. It's nice that my kids can take lessons in gymnastics and ice-skating. Internet is way faster. Netflix exists.
But I miss the slower life that we had overseas. We had more down-time as a family – here, busy-ness is a terribly contagious disease. Our kids' friends in Asia lived nearby instead of commuting to our local school from the deep south, so after-school playdates were possible/easily planned. There were always people to befriend, and seeing how challenging that is here, that was a really lovely thing about living in an international community. It's not hard to find people with similar interests to mine in Calgary, but finding people who can spare five minutes to talk isn't always easy because they're busy, busy, busy.
It's really an odd feeling to be back in the country that I grew up in, and feel like it's a strange place that I have to get used to living in. One of Chris's co-workers from Saigon emailed him a few days ago to report on how much downtown Saigon has changed in the months since we've been gone, and I'm surprisingly sad that we aren't there to marvel or curse about it.