Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Back in the US

After over four and a half months in Africa, it was finally time to go home for a quick visit to see loved ones, reconnect with the Shark Savers in NYC, go to Dema and film a few episodes for the Underwater Channel.

Funny, coming back to the US, I thought I was eager to get back but instead I instantly realized how out of place I feel. My life and work as a conservationist in South Africa has transformed me a bit, and for the first time, I think I realized how much my perceptions have shifted. I think I feel more at home in South Africa now – in a far less materialistic world that is so much closer to the realm within which I need to focus. What is important to me now is so different to what drove me in the past and being back I instantly felt awkward. The masses of people, the consumerism and the rat race (for what end goal?) alienated me completely. As soon as I arrived, I wanted to leave, get my hands dirty (or at least wet) and return back to being on the front lines of shark conservation…

But, what I thoroughly enjoyed (in addition to seeing my family and my puppy who I miss dearly) was bringing Paul to the US. Here is a kid who grew up in the bush – the tallest building he had ever seen was ten stories. America, to him, was the random television show or movie he had watched growing up. A-team, Nightrider and CSI cheesy violence combined with the best the eighties and Eddie Murphy had to offer: Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America.

And, bam, I drop him into the middle of New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando. Complete culture shock. He steps off the plane and I throw him on a subway bound for the financial district in Manhattan. His eyes were saucers the entire trip – and I am not sure he relaxed until we got to the sanctity and slow place that is Florida.

The things that he was desperate to experience were amusingly endearing as well as obscure. Halloween, hot dogs, Mexican food, the subway, anyplace that was used as a location for a scene in a TV show or a movie for the past 20 years, taxis, wireless Internet, vintage cars, soft serve ice cream, political commercials/election drama, raccoons, Captain Crunch… the list goes on and on. Things I have taken for granted most of my life.

(Paul's first hot dog.)

(Paul's first authentic Mexican food.)

I left with an appreciation for all I had growing up, the formulative experiences that made me who I am, and most importantly a renewed enthusiasm for the decision I made to become, what I suppose some might call and environmental vigilante. Or at least a crazy shark nut.

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