I will have to admit I was not the most patriotic American before I left the US in September. I was often more critical than supportive of US policy both at home and abroad, and certainly had no qualms with vocalizing said criticisms. I am not sure how it happened, or when, but somewhere in the past 10 months I have become serious ameriphile. I find myself getting defensive when Cameroonians assume that I am European, and giving long sermons to my counterparts how orderly, efficient, diverse, advanced, and awesome America is. I even have an American flag on the wall in my living room, which is something I had never anticipated doing. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and over here that distance is both literal and figurative. Bertoua is thousands of miles and seemingly countless light years away from Los Angeles. My life here and the life I left back in the states belong to two completely different worlds.
The moment I touched down at LAX, it was as if I woke up from a dream. My life in Cameroon belonged in another dimension, and I was astounded at how quickly everything became normal again. I had to keep reminding myself that everything I have done and seen over the past 10 months is indeed real. I saw my American lifestyle in a different light and registered things I had always taken for granted before, but nothing really felt foreign. It was almost like finding an old favorite shirt at the back of the closet: it feels familiar and yet somehow new again.
However,the moment I touched down in Nsimalen Airport in Yaounde. The smells, the sounds, and the instant stickiness woke me with a start and I was heart and soul in Cameroon again and America felt like a distant memory.