Well, I arrived back in the US yesterday with my parents at JFK after a layover at Charles de Gaulle in Paris. We got on the shuttle train and, after some confusion, made it back to our car. Coming back I was impressed by several things: first, everything is really spread out in America. Buildings have lots of space in between them, and streets are laid out on a grid, instead of winding about all over. Second, people didn't stare at me... and I felt almost more free because of it. Third, and this was at the restaurant where we went, they don't charge money for condiments here, and things are generally cheaper. I know all this is kind of dumb, but they seemed like a big difference after 89 days in the EU (you know, one more day would have made me an illegal immigrant!)
A word on security in the US. The United States has to be one of the hardest countries in the world to get into. You have to go through security again before you even get on the plane to come here, and then you get checked again and again, even as your boarding the plane. You have to fill out a form stating your intent for entering the country, even if your a U.S. citizen, and you get questioned by the department of homeland security on the way in. So, if you want to get into the EU, you just walk in, and maybe the guy glances at your passport... America seems like the Iron by Curtain by comparison. I suppose if Europeans had ever had anything happen to them they would probably be like this too, but it just seemed strange to me.
We got back at about eleven last night, which seemed like five or six in the morning to me because of the time zone difference. It was really nice to see my whole family again, and, after a fitful sleep, I gave them the presents I had collected for them on my travels.
I spent the rest of the day walking about in the sunshine and the woods, which are another thing they don't have in Italy (woods that is, they have lots of sunshine), and here by the computer. I got several really nice goodbye messages on facebook from friends from SBI, which were nice, but kind of sad to read. It was so hard to leave all of them, and I'm not really sure what I'm going to do now.
I bought the album Safari by the Italian hip-hop artis Jovanotti at Marco Polo (my favorite airport in the whole world) in Venice on the way out, and we listened to it in the Audi on the way home. It's really quite good, and I would recommend it if you are ok with listening to music that's in another language.