Day 48, Return to the US

>What a whirlwind of 28 hours it has been. I arrived only 11 hours ago into Philadelphia, exhausted at 1 AM after an 8 hour flight from Sao Paulo to Miami, Customs & Immigration (four separate really longs including having to stand behind someone who had broken a rum bottle, 2 hours layover, and then another 2.5 hours to get to Philadelphia.

I’m still a bit surprised by how difficult it has to acclimate to the US again. That first Customs line in Miami, all of sudden understanding all of the language around me, seeing all sorts of Americans I hadn’t seen before, finally losing the anonymity I realized I valued in Sao Paulo. The city, too, is so much quieter. No more constant traffic, construction jackhammers, or other kind of sounds that create noise I cannot even define very clearly. While the relative calm of Philadelphia is welcome, there’s also a bit of want for chaos because the act of finding calm in the chaos is incredibly rewarding.

The other thing I notice is so different in Philly is the openness of public space. There’s a whole book by Teresa Caldeira about the privatization of the city through a process in the 1980s that installed walls, gates, barbed wire and private security guards to a vast majority of residences in middle class to wealthy neighborhoods. While Sao Paulo can teach us a lot about building public arts/cultural centers, the experience of walking down an average street in the city feels guarded and closed off. This is due partly to the density of the city but also the way in which these fortifications stoke fears about crime and violence.

I wonder how my perceptions will change over the next few days but it’s been startling to see even my own home country in such a different light after traveling abroad.