After two years of living in Uganda and traveling all over East Africa, then coming back to the US for a few months, we have noticed some big differences between here and there. I hesitate to call it "culture shock" but we can certainly tell that life is different. Here are some of my reflections:
First of all, driving. You have read Anthony's road rage post. So the first time that we drove again in the US, we were blown away by how wide the roads are, how little traffic (especially big trucks) there is, how many different ways there are to get where you're going, and how overall easy it is to drive! There aren't hundreds of motorcycles and people and animals and crazy taxis racing around you, the roads are clearly marked, and you can drive really fast on the expressway (the fastest we drove in East Africa was about 60mph). And in Uganda, even if you are obeying the law, the police sometimes will pull you over and tell you something is wrong with your vehicle so you will give them a bribe. You don't have to be afraid of that here.
Secondly, there are some pretty crazy people running for president here. Of course there are some crazy people running for president in African countries as well. But even if a crazy person becomes president of the US, we will at least know that our vote was meaningful and people truly had a choice to elect that person or not.
Thirdly, we arrived in Michigan on a Saturday afternoon and went to church the next day. (As a side note, the service seemed to fly by since we're used to 2.5 hour (or more) long services.) But by the end of the week, on Friday, I realized that I had not seen a single child since church that first Sunday. Granted, it is winter and kids are in school so during the day there wouldn't be many people out in general. But in Uganda, there are lots of children everywhere, even during the school day. So that was pretty different.
Related to that, there is no compost pile in the back yard of the places that we stay so we have to either throw food and vegetable scraps away or put them down the disposal in the sink. It makes it a lot sadder to eat vegetables when there are no rabbits to eat the ends of the carrots or goats to eat the banana peels or compost pile that will turn egg shells into fertilizer.
But on the other hand, you can recycle a whole lot of things and there is trash pick-up. And even if Americans make way too much waste, at least it gets put into a sanitary landfill rather than thrown into wetlands or into a pile that flows out into the streets when it rains a lot.
We do have a lot of stuff though. That is actually something that stresses me out. I know that the four seasons do require more variety in clothing and shoes and so forth to be able to survive both the cold and the heat. But even for me and Anthony, when we saw all the things that we personally own which have been stored in boxes in my parents' basement, it kind of freaked me out and I probably got rid of about half of the clothes in there within the first few days of our arrival.
When we have gone shopping, I have been surprised to see the prices of many things in the stores. Although most things seem expensive though, gas has suddenly become very cheap - we were paying about $4 per gallon in Uganda and Kenya. It is amazing to spend less than $100 when we fill up on gas. Though it is also weird to have to pump our own gas after getting used to having someone else do it for us as in East Africa!
Speaking of shopping, we walked around a mall just to see what was there and we have discovered that technology and much more has left us behind. We found some really strange things in the stores: sand that doesn't get all over everything, personal robots (what?), a device for 3-D drawing, this fitbit thing (I'm still not completely sure what that does), to name a few. I'm starting to become convinced that robots may actually take over the world, probably starting in North America, which is a good reason to go back to Africa, haha.
Winter is also quite cold in Michigan in February. However, I personally am enjoying the change of weather where I am able to wear long sleeves and jeans inside the house. The snow is beautiful and I love Michigan. Living in so many different places helps me to recognize how each place has its own beauty. There are beautiful sunsets and sunrises in eastern Minnesota, the Black Hills in South Dakota, seemingly endless open spaces (and lots of goats) in Texas, colorful trees in Michigan in autumn, spectacular clouds every evening in Soroti...I could go on and on. It is just good to appreciate the goodness of whatever place you are at the moment instead of wishing to be somewhere else.