When we first came back to the states, I struggled with a lot of culture shock (or reverse culture shock I guess it is technically called). Our experience in eastern DRC was such that I even had culture shock in Kigali or Nairobi when we went on vacation. The time that I really struggled when we moved back to the states was in the grocery store. I think that is pretty common, it is just so very overwhelming due to the number of choices in every single food category. I remember the first time I shopped for our family. I was in Wegmans. I was surrounded by rows and rows and rows of food. So much food. I found myself hyperventilating and on the verge of a complete panic attack. Somehow I found myself in the international food aisle and then started crying when I saw cans of NIDO and bottles of Coke.
The city we lived in eastern DRC didn't have the big grocery stores we would find on our vacation trips to Kigali or Nairobi. Most of the stores are one room affairs with a wide collection of articles ranging from food to cheap chinese toys to clothes to mosquito rackets to pirated DVDs to Fisher Price baby toys that cost $50. The one "grocery store" in town was where we did a lot of our shopping (non-perishable). It had about 10 rows I think, that I could see over. We would take our time in that store, trying to find something new and different that had come, or buying the last coveted tin of "real" oatmeal. The best was finding a brand we recognized from the states or a treat from Europe. News usually spread fast when there was something special on those shelves. The back held the electronics. There I bought my washing machine. That is another story for another day, but I have never loved any machine more that that laundry machine.
The UN opened a PX the last year we were there (year a half?) and because of Mike's job we were able to get in and shop. Wow. We were like little kids in a candy store! Things we would buy there--frozen chicken breasts, canned vegetables we couldn't get locally, dark chocolate (!), juice (at a cheaper price). Compared to the U.S. the selection was small, but it didn't matter at all to us, because to us it was amazing.
Now, it's been a year and a half plus some. It's getting better. I no longer have panic attacks in the grocery store, but I still always find myself in the international food aisle. Especially after an encounter with the refrigerated goods aisle. I don't know what it is, but there is something about the orange juice section which throws me every time. It's like I have have some weird trigger and as soon as I stand there I start breathing fast and breaking out in a sweat!! Today I stood there and there were about 20 different kinds of orange juice made by the same people. "Some pulp" "no pulp" "lots of pulp" "grove stand" "calcium added" "homestyle some pulp calcium added" "homestyle some pulp no calcium" "homestyle lots of pulp" and on and on. Really??!! Does anyone know what the difference is between all the orange juice? Does anyone care? Does anyone come in with a list that says, "bread, eggs, Orange Juice Homestyle no pulp calcium" on it? I feel like I am being sold happiness in a bottle (depending on my personality type) and I better get it right or who knows what will happen to the rest of my day and week. Seriously.
I think I go into Wegmans geared for battle as I think about that aisle. Today, I said to myself, "I will not let the orange juice work me into a frenzy. Today I will calmly peruse the selections and within two minutes I will make a reasonable decision and put the orange juice in my cart and walk away with a slightly triumphant smile on my face that says "you did not beat me today". But no, that is not what not what happened today. I stood there with a total befuddled and slightly panicked look on my face as I stood and read the labels. I started to sweat. I started to feel anxious. And finally about 10 minutes later I grabbed one in desperation, threw it in the cart and raced away. I found the international food aisle and did deep breathing. In and out, In and out. When I got home I found out what I had grabbed, "homestyle some pulp". Hoping for happiness all week long.