Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm on the edge of recreating my old life. Coming back to the states and home after 7 months and 10 days away was a little like seeing myself in the mirror suddenly and not recognizing who that woman was -- me! Every day something reminds me of what we saw and thought about on the road in Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France and Britain.

The first time to the grocery store was a meltdown. An entire aisle dedicated to cereal? So many choices in every department, all brightly colored packaging clamouring for attention. I suppose that is appropriate in a consumer culture, but I'm not used to the messages. My closet was also a shock. With roughly 5 changes of clothes (and many trips to the sink for washing out) over the last months, I wasn't quite ready for so many choices.

The television ramps up from 4-5 channels, often not in English, to hundreds. Our local library, once a haven with tapestry-covered armchairs, has been totally reorganized, fewer tables for sitting and browsing, more stacks and stacks of books. So, does such luxury (for it seems that) just obscure how we use each day? I feel surrounded by clutter and uncertain of what is essential even as it's wonderful to be home, surrounded by beloved green hills, the Willamette Valley, even during August, the dried out month of yellow grassy fields.

And so I begin, first with family and friends, reconnecting with celebrations (a new baby, new jobs) and sadness (two deaths). And reconnecting with work. Aargh. Five classes and four preps. Actually five preps, since one of the double classes is online. And I need to switch over from Cold Fusion to Blackboard, a relatively time-intensive program so far, with its own structures, rather like living online in someone else's house. So that's only about 125 students if I hold the line on adds, but the online registration shows my tech writing classes already full.

I think I want to continue the blog. Maryanne writes about once a week -- her thoughts about living in Egypt. I'd like to figure out how to add a comments link. Being home is its own adventure with the November elections coming up, sparking my paranoia, well nurtured by the Vietnam era. Bush and Kerry both visited Portland on the same day last week -- there's a kind of theater. Kerry headed towards Riverfront Park and tens of thousands of people showed up. Bush stopped at several carefully orchestrated events. Only donors and volunteers were allowed the august presence. Is he afraid of the American people?

And the Olympics are on, a celebration of courage, effort, discipline, and beauty, even if I only watch a few highlights. The war in Iraq is nearly invisible, even as the loss of American life passes 900 and the loss of Iraqi life is measured in tens of thousands. The administrative change this week is that the Iraqis kicked out the press. The only journalists allowed to remain are those embedded with the troops -- the same troops that protect them. Will that affect the news, the ability to see the larger picture, evaluate what's happening overall, or even to get the word out about what's happening?

Today's daily poem by Alicia Ostriker reminds me that the same landscape provokes different perspectives, but the west coast is home. Ah, it is good to be home.

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