“Did I just say that?” I thought to myself.
The first time the words came out of my mouth in Bishkek, I couldn’t believe they were mine. That was when my pal, Erica, turned to me and said, “Why can’t you? If going home right now is what you need or want in order to be happy, then just do it.”
Erica possesses an uncanny ability to ease my mind, making the smoke clear from my perpetual thought-fed bonfire, when I need it the most. I love her way of rationalizing a little splurge now and then. She would explain that she is not a very adventurous person, but when it comes to doing something a little on the extravagant side because it will make her happy at that moment she doesn’t think twice.
I took a page from her book and booked a flight home. I was actually excited!
In Peoria, I noticed I began to see it through new eyes. And, rightfully so. In the past eight months, I had only been around for a total of one week and that was mainly the week I spent recovering/unpacking/repacking after Guatemala. Things felt different, smelled different, and looked different. I was now a tourist in my hometown.
It’s weird to think about, but when I’m gone I miss Peoria. I talk about it – I BRAG about it. I dream about Avanti’s bread and Sizzling India nan. I laugh at the fact we have a riverboat casino, one that still questions my age if I get within 100 feet of the front door. I love that our claims to fame include Richard Pryor, Caterpillar, and penicillin.
“Will it play in Peoria?” is the motto of this area because we are supposed to be a good representation of the U.S., which really seems silly to me now since it is only people here that I find say “Italian” with a long “I” as in eye-talian (thus the reason of my recent poll).
It is safe to say that Peoria is a testosterone driven city. Navigating through town, one may notice an unbelievable number of pickup trucks or jeeps with testicles hanging off the back. This will also be happening while flipping from one radio-friendly metal station to the next that constantly commercializes frat parties and strip clubs. Ok, maybe that is all that could substantiate that claim, but it was definitely the first, no second, impression I received when returning home.
The first impression of home happened when my step-dad picked me up from the bus drop and I immediately noticed how “twangy” his speech was. That was really hard to get past, especially since I began to wonder how I sounded to other people when I talked. When I was in Kazakhstan before, a friend there actually called me a hill-billy for being from Illinois, and I was in complete denial until my aunt just recently said, “If you haven’t noticed yet, we come from a somewhat hill-billy family,” and completely brought me over to the other side.
This aside, I enjoyed going home and rediscovering Peoria. I like the old style feel of the downtown area with early 1900s street lamps, brick buildings, and cute little shops. Peoria was like an old friend I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know again. Even Wal-Mart – which completely freaked me out at first – was a pleasant companion since it was so easy to be able to get anything I needed when I needed it. It was a month full of family and cookouts, comforts and surprises, but I will be honest by saying that by the end I was more than ready to leave again. Yes, Peoria, you seem different in a good way, but I just can’t get myself to stick around yet.
I’m back in Central Asia and toying with a few ideas I’ll be sure to throw past you all in my next post or two. Do Svidaniya!