My family and I returned from our trip to El Salvador a couple weeks ago. I am still trying to recover in various ways.
Though this was overall a happy experience which I don’t regret for a second, it did cause some confusion in me.
There were problems on the first day with my mother, which Tracy already explained on her blog. It goes without saying that this is a difficult thing for me and it’s something that will be an on-going problem. Regardless of the situation with my mother, the trip was emotional in other ways.
For the first few days I felt that I didn’t belong there – that I wasn’t Salvadoran anymore because I didn’t understand how things worked. I’ve lost some of my Salvadoran accent, and somehow, even when Tracy wasn’t with me, people seemed to treat me as a tourist.
After the first week I broke through all that. I felt like I fell into the rhythm of my country. I felt more confident in my actions. I knew where to buy what I needed at good prices and how to get there. I picked up on new slang and incorporated it into my vocabulary. I spent hours talking with my old best friend, reminiscing about old times and creating new memories – our two families together – our kids hanging out the way we hung out when we were their age. I felt proud to show my country to my children – and prouder still that they loved it.
I felt Salvadoran – not like a visitor. But with that new happiness came new problems. Now I felt as if I didn’t want to return to the United States.
Of course the day came when we had to go to the airport and get on the flight. I was surprised that Tracy and the boys were going through a similar mix of feelings. I hugged my best friend goodbye and we both pretended to be stronger than we felt. As the plane lifted off, taking me back to the land of my wife and children, back to my adopted country, back to our house and all its responsibilities, back to work and reality in general, I cried – all of us did.
Once back in the United States, I went through a period of readjustment which still isn’t quite over. Sometimes I feel depressed and nostalgic. At other times I feel thankful, blessed and guilty. I call my best friend daily. He wishes he could live in the United States – wishes he could work in a job that paid him even half of what I make per hour. He wishes he lived in a house on a quiet suburban street like I do, instead of in Soyapango where thieves have broken in and gangs have tagged his home with graffiti. He wishes his son, who is only a little older than my oldest son, had all the opportunities my kids have.
It’s difficult to feel like I belong in two places at once, but that I don’t wholly belong to either.