My NH Homecoming: Filled with Cheese and Anxiety

The small village of Dnipryani - this was the view from my balcony of my apartment in Ukraine.

The small village of Dnipryani – this was the view from my balcony of my apartment in Ukraine.

I returned to New Hampshire a little over a year ago after spending twenty-seven long months as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Dnipryani – a small village in the south of Ukraine. I thought that I knew exactly what I would feel upon arrival on those foreign shores – homesickness, culture shock, Giardia…. But I had had no idea how much I would miss smaller things that we here in America (New Hampshire) take for granted every single day.

Obviously, I missed my family, my friends, and the state that I had called home for twenty-three years of my life, but I also missed surprising things, like Mexican food. Ukrainians are notorious for their love of cabbage and potatoes and all things bland, so when I mentioned to my new friends my love of spicy Mexican food, I got looked at as though I was a crazy person. Gone were the days when I could drive to Margarita’s and have my fill of chips, salsa, and enchiladas. Also, gone were the days when I could drive – another of those little things we take for granted.

I missed the following things as though they were dear, old friends and no matter how hard I tried to recreate them while I was gone, it was never the same:

  • Driving
  • Christmas
  • The Fourth of July
  • Chinese Food
  • Mexican Food
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Mountains
  • Going out for Ice Cream
  • Grocery Stores
  • Microbreweries
  • NH State Fairs
  • Domesticated animals

Upon my return to New Hampshire in May of 2012, I experienced something unexpected. While I was looking forward to a summer filled with Chinese food, the family dog, and ice cream at Kimball Farms, I was struck with another feeling – the dreaded reverse culture shock. Grocery stores became places filled with food and anxiety – the sheer variety and amount of food had the power of reducing me to tears. I quickly learned how to dart in and out surreptitiously, only grabbing a few things at a time while furtively avoiding eye contact with the smiling, English speaking grocery store clerks.

Roxy can often be found hunting for fingers and toes in her natural bedroom habitat.

Roxy can often be found hunting for fingers and toes in her natural bedroom habitat.

I had been looking forward to being able to speak English to the people around me, but I got into a bad habit of starting every conversation with Russian and getting weird looks from family, friends, and store clerks. Eventually, my conversations stopped sounding like a poorly dubbed Russian film and my friends and family can now understand most of the words that come out of my mouth. Nowadays, I get by through speaking Russian to my cat Roxy, who I smuggled (not really, she has papers) from Ukraine to New Hampshire.

Upon my return, I felt overwhelmed by so many things that most people take for granted, for example:

  • The Fourth of July
  • Christmas
  • Chinese Food
  • Mexican Food
  • Grocery Stores
  • Friends and Family
  • People in general
  • Speaking English
  • State Fairs

I am glad to be back in New Hampshire, though. I have made my piece with grocery stores and having to continually speak English. I will even frequent the Margarita’s restaurant down the street from my apartment without incident. Somedays I miss Ukraine vehemently, but most days I am so pleased to be right where I am – in the middle of mountains, lakes, ice cream, and all of the sharp cheddar cheese that I can eat.

4 Responses to “My NH Homecoming: Filled with Cheese and Anxiety”

  1. CarolineJuly 8, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Really enjoyed reading because I have not ever lived outside of New England and people usually talk about being away then back but not how the transitions are full of happiness and anxiety.
    Thank you!

    • Maggie RingeyJuly 8, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

      Thank you, Caroline! I think that any kind of transition is going to be fairly difficult, but it is much harder when the anxiety is unexpected. I think everything should be fine as long as plenty of cheese is involved, though!

  2. AlyssaJuly 8, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Great first post, Maggie! Welcome to the SWP blogger group. I’ve barely stepped out of New England, so this was a great read. Keep ’em coming.

    • Maggie RingeyJuly 9, 2013 at 9:00 am #

      Thank you, Alyssa! I’m really excited to be blogging for SWP!

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