Upon Return: Thrown Into A Different World

Florence DiBiase, Class of 2019
Florence DiBiase, ’19

It is strange to think I’ve been back in the United States for a week now. I feel like I just left Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived fairly uneventfully back in New York late on Friday. It was strange leaving Jayne and Julia, as we have been pretty much inseparable for six weeks. I am so happy we melded so well as group and I hope we continue to work together in global health.

I had hoped to get another flight home to Boston but our arrival was so late that there were no flights that late at night. I stayed with my cousin in Queens on the couch- not necessarily the best after about thirty hours of travel, but better than stranded in the airport. Jet lag prevented me from sleeping much anyways. My family is renting a house on the beach in Scarborough, Maine this week. My dad grew up in South Portland, so much of our extended family lives in the area.  It is very lucky that the timing worked out so the trip aligns with my one free week of summer. My task was thus getting to the beach, and I made it after another six hours of travel. Next, I was rewarded with a lovely case of influenza that has left me pretty out for the count for four days. Fortunately I am finally feeling better. I was a little nervous- based on incubation periods, I have to have brought it back from Asia with me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Now I am trying to stretch out my precious few days of freedom before returning to school.

image005It is a strange place to reflect on my experiences this summer. Higgins beach is an affluent, white, and very preppy beach town of crowded airy cottages. The beach is beautiful and scattered with bronzed sunbathers peeling through lazy beach reads. I feel that I have been thrown into a completely different world here. I am lucky to have the opportunity to relax and recover in a peaceful place, but listening and watching people walk by and relax on the beach I find myself easily irritated with the trivialities that they concern themselves with. I recognize that I am particularly sensitive given what I have just seen at Cho Ray Hospital, but how can people be so blind to their privilege? How can this community be so homogeneous and seemingly devoid of culture? I also did not miss the sarcasm and cynicism of Americans that I was quick to forget among our Vietnamese friends. I have been waking up very early as I readjust my circadian rhythm, and I’ve had some nice long walks on the beach to contemplate.

It is also interesting to watch the Olympics on television. As an ex-gymnast of twelve years, I was very excited to watch the competition. While I am happy with their gold medal, I was disappointed with NBC’s coverage. They only showed a handful of other countries’ routines! How can coverage of an event about international unity be so focused on one country? It is sad that that seems to be what sells for the network. I hope that future events show a little more diversity.

I am still trying to place my mixed but mostly positive feelings towards my travels, the people I have met, and my return to the United States. There are certainly creature comforts I am happy to have back (cheese!), and I am fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful family and friends. I am looking forward to returning to Burlington and getting settled back in, although less to the stress of school!

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