I'm back after a brief hiatus in Iowa. I hadn't seen my mom since Christmas and I missed her, so I hopped on Amtrak last Wednesday and spent a long weekend with her.
Amtrak is funny once you leave the east coast. It's the strangest mix of people...students, hippies, people going short distances, people afraid to fly, and a bunch of Amish. It's actually quite comfortable for the short trip home, and it gave me an excuse to eat strange snack foods like the cheese and cracker thing I bought at the Kwik Trip in Caledonia on the way to the station Monday morning. (Note to self - go to the co-op the day before you leave Decorah and get something healthier.)
I also got a lot of reading done. I finished The Omnivore's Dilemma, and I confess I really enjoyed it. I am more convinced now than ever that vegetarianism isn't the only ethical diet, but am now checking for grass-fed animals and finding local producers, because it just seems that this is the best way to eat. It made me extremely sensitive to the giant loads of corn in my diet and now I'm bird-dogging for all those hidden corn products in processed food and trying to limit my intake. I'm also on a tear about gum arabic, what since I'm not keen on Saudi Arabia and don't want my money going to them just because in a moment of weakness I have a hankering for some chocolate. (This is not mentioned in TOD, but instead is just a food-related obsession that seems tangentially related to the corn squeezin's thing.)
My next book was Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I loved this book. It's a collection of short stories examining love, family obligation, relationships and the tensions and triumphs inherent in acclimating to a foreign environment. I've always loved Lahiri's work. I think her characters are beautifully subtle and complex, and she's adept and pulling intense emotions out of simple things. With this book, I found that it especially resonated with me, maybe because I've just moved to a new place, maybe because of my expat experience or maybe because of all this plus the fact that I read it on a trip to my mom's. Who knows. But I do a lot of thinking about the fork my life just took, and how I will be different now that I'm back here in the US from what I might have been had I stayed abroad and built my home in the UK. In UE, Lahiri masterfully illustrates the things I feel...when you've left your homeland and built a life somewhere else, the new place becomes as much a part of you as your original home. You develop a hybridized identity, and "home" becomes less of an external thing and more about living an honest, happy life. I think the New York Times' review said home was where you were able to truly be yourself, and that is exactly it. I'm not taking the time to write a well-thought-out review that makes sense, but suffice it to say I highly recommend this book.
I had a great time with my mom. We basically hung out, went to dinner, played Scrabble. Nothing exciting. But my mom is always good company and I needed a break from the endless days of job searching and it was an excellent way to spend my weekend. And now I'm back, and I'm starting to make little inroads that may lead to something that may lead to a job someday, and it all seems a little more hopeful and a little bit better and a little bit easier to deal with.