It was a little weird at first. But only a little. Stepping off the plane I ran into a wall of hot humid air. It was kind of like a warm smack in the face saying, “Hey, welcome back. You’re not in the Netherlands anymore.”
I wasn’t. I was at Newark Liberty International Airport. And it was the end of July. And contrary to the Netherlands, where I was biking to work wearing a jacket because it was 65 degrees and cloudy most of the time, Newark (and New Jersey for that matter), was just what I remembered: freezing cold in the winters, and hot and sticky in the summers. And since the last time I was back was February, I was getting to see both ends of the spectrum.
Like I said, it was a little weird. Six months away and you start to get acclimated to the way things are done in Europe. Coming back, you notice the small things. Like how big everything is. Like what it feels like to drive a car again. A big one. With a trunk you could fit multiple bodies in. How big the highways are.
We drove to Princeton and it took about forty-five minutes, and by the time I got there I was almost done with the brain-shifting back to US standards. Still, I noticed some things and reveled in their Americanness. For example, the first morning I went to the supermarket to pick up bagels (which do not exist in Europe) and smoked salmon, and I walked in and almost kissed the floor.
The store was about four times as big as the crappy little Albert Heijn supermarket we shop in in Dordrecht. Tellingly, the shopping carts were at least 50% bigger. The aisles are wide and well lit, and filled with a variety of products. There were seven different kinds of milk. Eight different blends of orange juice. An entire aisle, front to back, dedicated to cereal. There’s a bakery IN the store where the bagels and doughnuts are obviously fresh and I quickly scooped them into my cart, as if they would run away otherwise.
I was just supposed to be there for bagels, coffee, and salmon, but I just couldn’t resist buying a package of Nestle ‘Break ‘n Bake’ chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s been over a year since I did the simple task of breaking off some pre-cut, pre-made cookie dough and throwing it in the oven for twelve minutes so I could have a nice hot batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. How could I resist?
And finally, when my basket was full and I headed to the registers, a nice employee motioned to me, “I can take you over here sir.”
Now THAT’S America.
Yeah, it’s good to be home.