When returning home in September 2012, Avery said America seemed “exactly the same and totally alien at the same time.”
“Coming home is overwhelming. It’s very difficult to describe reverse culture shock. Your whole world gets turned upside down. There is so much advertising and things in your face that we’ve become desensitized to. When you get home you’re not used to it anymore and you experience total sensory overload,” he said. “The emotional shock didn’t hit me until the next day after I got home. Arriving in the airport and driving home felt like walking through a dream. I couldn’t sleep for the first week. I would just wake up at 6 a.m. and wander around my house like it was this bizarre museum of my own life. Everything is so much easier to do when you get back; it’s astounding. I would laugh every time I turned on my sink and hot water would come out. It was wonderful how proud everyone was. The welcome I received was amazing.”
While Avery is in the midst of settling in and trying to figure out his academic path, he not only misses the individuals he worked with in Togo, but also appreciates life’s simple pleasures.
“I appreciate the simple things like air conditioning and running water; I didn’t have either one of those things. I had to use a rain catch cistern and I had to filter the water through my shirt. We also had blackouts from power outages two or three times a week and sometimes for a couple of days,” he said. “The best experience I had was being involved in a summer camp for handicapped boys. Seeing these very shy boys who had felt different their entire lives get a chance to be around lots of other people like them; it was a privilege to experience. I grew really attached to the kids in my group. You could see such a huge difference in just a few days time.”
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