Today Matt Rogers gave me a haircut (Disco’s Chop Shop, Main St. across from Druthers, Campbellsville, KY). Matt and I were part of the group from the Campbellsville and Nashville Vineyards that visited Peru in 2005, so Matt knows something of the contrast between here and there. “How does it feel to be back in the States,” he asked me.
I never quite know how to answer that question. I think it’s because I feel so many things. I told him it’s like traveling between two planets. But one of the even stranger things is that one planet (Peru) knows that the other (the U.S.) exists but not vice versa.
When you get to know everyday South Americans and they get to know that they can trust you, they’ll start asking about the States. The U.S. is in the news a lot down there, and about half the TV shows on cable in South American are exported U.S. series overdubbed into Spanish. (CSI is hugely popular.) They know the U.S. can’t really be like TV so they ask: What’s it really like? Does everyone live in big houses in the suburbs like on TV? What do they like to eat? Why do they shoot each other so much?
Americans, on the other hand, don’t ask much about South America. It’s not that we don’t have the potential to care. It’s just that there’s nothing here that brings it to our attention, while everyday life here demands every ounce of attention we’ve got. There is, actually, some South American TV programming on our TV cable systems (I saw some Colombian soap operas on my sister’s system in Texas), but it’s in Spanish so we surf right by. And U.S. papers and the TV news don’t say anything about South America unless there’s a disaster.
So how does it feel to be back in the States? It feels like being stuck between two planets. Not really on one and not really on the other, either. Spacewalking. It feels sort of like spacewalking.