My pink Target watch battery died on March 20.
The seven dollar watch I had bought for Kenya and have worn daily since the day I left America died on March 20. Time stopped at that moment, and that is the day I left. My time was officially done in Kenya.
As I was exiting the plane in Detroit, the man in front of me handed his luggage to his wife and I thought he said “Chukua.” I wanted to start asking them questions in Kiswahili, but I was suddenly very self conscious of speaking it. What would they think of me if I started speaking it to them? I realized I could no longer assume that everyone that potentially looked African was African and could understand Kiswahili. I then remembered I had braids in my hair and felt like a huge idiot. The airport security guy then told me my braids were “ghetto fabulous.” I think it was meant to be a compliment, but that really just added to the African identity crisis. This whole coming home thing may be harder than I originally thought.
Alright, now customs. I walked past the “All other passport holders” line and flat out stared at all the different looking people that all looked so trendy and exotic. And when I got to the “US passport holders” line, everyone looked so… boring. So ordinary and boring. People were generally dressed more plain and were a bit heavier than the people in the previous line, and it simply was not as exciting to people-watch. A “Welcome to America” video was playing in the background, and in it were images of children on ferris wheels, old men fishing, the Statue of Liberty, kids eating ice cream, and the occasional hip-looking rapper all saying “Welcome.” “Karibu.” No wait, that was just in my head.
First stop was actually at the first restaurant I saw: Starbucks. The epitome of American culture. My mom had given me a gift card there before I left for Kenya. It literally sat in my luggage for almost a year, so I figured it was about time to use it. I stood at the end of a long line and just marveled at the sight. I was overwhelmed with options: mochas, lattes, frappachinos, cappachinos, mochachinos, what on earth was a chino again? The muffins in the case looked larger than life, and they seemed to have expanded in every possible direction. There were bunches of Dole bananas sitting on the counter (I didn’t know Starbucks had a designated market day) and I couldn’t help but stare. The bananas looked so… artificial. They were all the exact same shape and size and all were perfectly yellow- not even a tiny bruise. They honestly looked like foreign objects. I tore my eyes away from the freakshow bananas and ordered an Iced Caramel Macchiato, size medium or grande or whatever. But with my first sip, I didn’t taste the caramel or the macchiato- I was overwhelmed by the taste of ice. The ice was hogging all of the flavor of this strange drink, and I couldn’t stop obsessing over it. As it started melting into water and mixed with the strange new espresso flavor (not Nescafe), I couldn’t help but to wonder where this ice came from. Was this safe to drink? This water doesn’t taste right anymore, in fact, nothing about this tastes normal. The paranoia took over, and that macchiato mess ended up in the trash.
I decided to start walking in the direction of a Mrs. Fields bakery for obvious reasons, but got sidetracked into Diego’s Mexican Cantina, which I guess is the new term for mexican hotelis. Sure, I had already been served lunch on the previous flight, but one glance at the menu made up my mind for me. I sat down and plugged my laptop in (free stima!) and proceeded to order. I decided at this solo lunch it would be appropriate for me to order a margarita, so I ordered a mango one (it is, after all, mango season). He asked to see my ID and I panicked. I haven’t looked at my driver’s license for a year, so after scrambling to find it in my luggage, I had to stop and take a look. The Nebraska driver’s license looked so strange, but I handed it to him anyways and he deemed it to be legit. One thing I found striking was that as I ordered, he paid very careful attention and wrote everything down. I heard him repeat it to the cashier and he relayed everything 100% correctly. I was legitimately impressed. My mango margarita (mangorita), came to me overflowing. The amount of cheese in my Cheese Enchiladas was mind blowing, to the point of where it didn’t even make sense, but I kept eating anyways. Actually, I’m pretty sure I blacked out during the meal just from a sensory overload. Probably looked like a goddamn fool. The meal (with tip, good thing I remembered) cost me $20, or 1600 shillings. That amount could feed me for three weeks back in Kenya. Well, that was just depressing. Good thing that margarita was so strong.
I suddenly came to the realization that Detroit was in Michigan, and when I saw people wearing shirts with universities on it, the person probably actually knew what that college or state was. I guess the days were over where I could see a man wearing a pink sorority bid day t-shirt at the market and have him not feel any shame.
I really couldn’t breathe after eating all that cheese, and tequila was pumping strong through my veins for the first time in months, but I stayed strong and continued towards the Mrs. Fields. It was one of the most painful things I have ever had to do, but with great power comes great responsibility. I indulged in the foreign object known as The Chocolate Chip Cookie. Kenya has it’s fair share of biscuits, but they’re a far cry from actual cookies. And chocolate chips are a whole different story. I literally had to sit down after taking a bite. Oh. My. God. And it was warm, to make it even more outrageous of a feeling.
Well, I guess this is America. Over and out.