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Not Culture Shock – Just Shock

This morning I typed the following into Google, “What is the word for when you travel somewhere and it feels weird to return home?”  I was looking for a word like sonder (n. the realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as your own) or hiraeth (n. a homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or that never was).   Something that pithily encapsulates a complex emotion.

Maybe your’re thinking “culture-shock”.  But isn’t that for people who return after living or traveling abroad for a long period of time?  It’s more like this: I’ve become so embedded in the current U.S. political news cycle that it only becomes shocking when I’ve stepped away from it.

As tourists in Montreal this past summer, my husband and I enthusiastically threw ourselves into celebrations for Canada Day 150.  We watched Canadian morning shows and learned about the history of the loonie.  We rocked out at the Montreal Jazz Festival.  We ate all of our Montreal favorites.  We joined the gaggles of tourists hiking to the top of Mont Royal.

Maybe as native Quebecois, we would have felt the ambivalence that some French-Canadians feel towards the rest of their Anglophone country.  (Apparently in Quebec, Canada Day, July 1,  is a day traditional reserved for moving, and consequently, picking up discarded furniture from the curb.)  Instead, we applied our maple-leaf temporary tattoos and waved our mini-Canadian flags with deranged excitement for Montreal’s Canada Day Parade.

Literally the first people there hoping we got a good spot
Can’t rain on our parade

All my ambivalence was reserved for our return to the U.S. just in time for July 4th.  We started checking out the U.S. news even before we started our drive back to New Jersey.  The president had tweeted a meme about beating up reporters (so now that’s a part of the official White House record).  And our New Jersey governor was photographed relaxing at a state beach after shutting down all state beaches due a budget dispute.  Of course , now that feels like ages ago.

It’s now a year out from when I attended the first Women’s March in Washington. I knew that if I didn’t take that experience as inspiration to get more politically involved that it would be for nothing.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ll still enjoy the novelty and escapism of being a tourist.  I have the privilege to both escape, and to come back shocked by anything that takes me out of my own daily experience.   Hopefully, shocked out of complacency and into (renewed and re-energized) action.

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