So, I am here again in [chilly] Florida, looking out on my brown yard and black pool, feeling a bit like a stranger in a totally familiar land that’s suddenly gone slightly askew.

I realized as I made my way through a markedly varied cultural progression of airports yesterday (first LAX, the shittiest airport that ever existed, populated with some of the most unpleasant service people I have ever run into, and that’s coming from someone who has lived a substantial time in [unfairly maligned] New York City; then Houston, with equal proportions of guys in camo gear and perfectly suited businessmen; the finally [ahh] Orlando, with its tidy organization, well-posted signage, and friendly, helpful, drawl-free people) that although I obviously didn’t feel exactly at home in a country that wasn’t mine, I also no longer feel exactly right here.

You don't mess with Texas, cuz even the coons eat jalapeno jerky! (This very "Guns 'n' Ammo" Bass Pro Shop display at the Houston airport brought on a fit of hilarity that I am sure befuddled bystanders.)

Just like when I returned from Germany, I feel like almost as much of a stranger in the place I was born and raised in as the one I just left.  Things are different here.  For example, you can’t tell what public bathroom stall to go into because there’s no helpful green or red indicator linked to the bolting mechanism to show which ones are occupied and which ones merely have closed doors. Americans also talk funny – they have weird accents and really flat A’s!  When James drove me home from the airport last night, I kept tensing up as he turned into the WRONG side of all the streets.  It’s HARD to find even just one decent beer on tap in the average bar you walk into. (Kiwis have assy beer too, but there’s always one tested and true decent one in just about every pub – she says, after having conscientiously sampled many of them – never let it be said I am one to shirk my cultural research!) And the fatness ratios – not intending to be snarky, it is just truly astounding, is all – are just… whoa.  Not that I haven’t seen quite a few stout Kiwis (including the Maori) but a really fat American is an eye-blinking thing to behold. There were more redcap carts running people off the walkways of the Houston airport than I’ve ever seen before – transporting a number of folks up there in years enough to not want to hafta schlep their own stuff around the place, but a large number too of those who had simply exceeded the weight limits of their own support structure. I’ve also managed to forget how to use my own kitchen sink – which way was the hot water again? It was disorienting when James swung open the living room door and I stepped into the house last night – consciously, I KNEW I live here, but there was no sense of familiarity left anymore – the ‘Ahhhh’ you say when you get home from a trip was not present. In fact, I felt even more strange and disconnected, knowing I should be feeling that feeling, and wasn’t. And stepping inside was the final, completing step of a return journey that – though I’d long been looking forward to it – started to become a far less attractive prospect in the last, very happy days of my trip, when I was spending my time with a Kiwi I’d prefer, ideally, to NOT be eight thousand-some miles away from.

Yet, for now: work awaits, my fridge is empty, I have a HUGE pile of mail to go through, and I am freezing to death in my meat-locker house. Familiarity will undoubtedly be re-found as I just plod through negotiating the vagaries of my daily existence.