When I returned from Peace Corps service, America was a different place. It was not home any longer — not like it was before I left. Friends and family were happy to see me, but I couldn’t relate to them like before. Striking up a conversation was difficult. They talked about movies, clothes, jobs, and money. Absentmindedly, I just stared in amazement at the number of material things around me. Sleeping in a bed was difficult. I hadn’t slept on something soft for years, and I froze when temperatures dropped below 80 degrees. Water fountains. I — loved -water — fountains. Like no one else! The water didn’t need to be boiled, filtered, and cooled overnight. You just pushed a button and drank!
Things I cherished in the village (talking, close human relationships, and a slower-paced life) did not seem to be valued in America. It was all about going — going to work, going to school, going to appointments. Going, and most of these goings seemed to somehow revolve around money. It was a far cry from the village, where living revolved around people. People, not money, were the focus of life. When I came back, reverse culture shock got the best of me most nights. I would often cry myself to sleep, just wishing to be back home in Kiribati. Like water, Kiribati gave me life. It taught me (an American) what is essential and how to truly live with others!