Maritza Ruiz-Kim

Artist, San Francisco Bay Area

Home Not Home

I’m washed out and feeling like the day should be over when it’s 5pm here in New Jersey and 2pm back home.

Just finished the most uneventful part of our trip, and now we are in Newark, New Jersey- the only place we’ve been that I wish we didn’t have an over 6 hour lay-over, because, what do I want to do here? Nothing. I want to see my boys, and I don’t have that sense of wishing for more time just to see one thing in the city. If only this six hours been in London or Chicago. Here- we are sitting in a TGI Friday’s, a place I had zero interest in when I was in Stockholm (they have a TGI Friday’s there with a big “American Food” sign) But here, I am willing. Hello, spinach-artichoke dip.

There was something unexpected as we landed here. My mind has been filled with efforts to put into words the relief I have felt at being on home soil. I’ve never been in New Jersey, no. But- USA. I sighed with relief as we taxied into the terminal and I heard seat belts clicking.

We went through the walkway, with every step taking me closer to my land, my country, my home. I am not one to slip into rapture over our flag, or our anthem, but as we approached customs, and seeing fellow Americans stationed at all the posts, I softly chanted to GK “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” (I’Ve been rooting on Americans in the Olympics while being in a foreign country, I have had this chant at the ready.) Yes! Home! Home of baseball caps and jeans & t-shirts, home of words I understand and people I understand (sort of.) Home of familiar tasting food and images and this earth, it belongs to my country. Home. When I hear the people talking, everything is so comforting.

Another day I hope I take the time to tell just why I loved Stockholm so much. Sweden. All of it. It is a great soft-landing for a first-time-to-Europe traveler, with everyone top to bottom speaking English and understanding me.

But here, I get it. I get where the toilets are and how to use them. I get the pronunciations, and I get the signs. I am not trying to use new words (badly) and the pizzas are thick with pepperoni. The Cokes are Diet Coke, not tiny Coke Lights, and the refills are big & frequent. GK is watching his sports, his Olympic baseball. USA vs. Korea! How perfect! And he can’t decide who he’s rooting for. I think it’s for whoever’s winning.

I am home. I like home. I like the USA. I love it.

I am this self-conscious chameleon wherever I go. I relayed a story to GK about when I was in first grade– about arriving to a new school with my favorite dress on, and immediately seeing that the two Best Girls had nothing like it. I’d like to say I proudly retained my individuality, that as an artist-to-be, that I embraced my love of this dress. But I didn’t. My love turned to hate. I came home and pronounced that I’d never wear it again. It was no small matter in my life. Me & the dress were over. Forever.

And so I adapt, blend in, disappear (so I try, so I hope) physically into the crowd, I don’t want to stand out. I want to blend in so I can observe undetected from whatever post I am holding. Camouflage? It’s not just a mental decision. I did think through wardrobe choices for my trip, yes, but even upon being there, I slightly morphed. I laughed to GK last night on our walk to dinner about the ways that I’d changed even my speech. Instead of “um” while thinking in the midst of conversation, saying, “eh” in that European way; also, saying “yes?” while explaining things, and I could even tell the cadence of my speech slightly different, and the subtle pronunciations of certain vowels changing… what’s wrong with me? ☺ Anyway, that’s how I’m built I guess. My mom is this way. I have seen her speech change with her surroundings before. So it runs in the family? And I have adapted certain words and phrases and manners of speaking when I talk to GK’s mom.

Umma: Mari?

Me: Neh? (it just rolls off.)

Umma: I been call-ling you and call-ing you!

Me: I forgot my hand-phone at home.

What? Hand-phone? Of course I call it a cell phone in real life, but I say it naturally as I speak with her. That and so many other things. Part of my Mexorean culture, I guess.

And for 9 days, my Euro-Mexorean culture!

Hello, USA,

I’m home!!!

One Reply to “Home Not Home”

  • You didn’t die your hair blond did you? I’ll still love you, but if you start smelling like herring and meatballs everytime you come over I might have to reconsider our friendship. 🙂

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