When you get out of the plane, all your senses feel the foreign and exotic land. The warm and heavy humidity lets you know you are not home any more. People seem strange; they are big, or at least bigger than you, with expressions only seen in cartoons, and those who seem real are just as lost as you.
Some years later when you come back home becomes the foreign land, and the former exotic place is now your home. There are not more strange people; perhaps now you are one of them. Your expressions are confident, and, if an outsider looked at you, he would think you look a like a cartoon. This time, the people you are looking are not strange. They are extremely familiar, extremely real. So real that you compare your arm with theirs, how every vein, every hair, the tone of skin looks just as yours. Their eyes know what you are thinking. You hear familiar but remote voices. Who the heck are you? You wonder.
These and more sensations that I cannot describe in English or Spanish or French or Aramaic or Wolof is what I felt first: when I came to America and second: on my first trip back to Colombia.
When entering the country, there is a big rush, a rush so intense that it is impossible to realize the magnitude of what is happening. It is the beginning of a new life, the start again from zero, the forgiveness of all your sins, entering a new world of adventure, but all you can think is where is my passport ? My green card? When will the connection flight to the city of Detroit leave? A long line transforms the rush in impatience that accumulates in you. You sweat, you tremble, and your heart vibrates in an unhealthy rhythm. Finally you are in front of the line where an agent whose last name is Rodriguez questions you about the reason of your trip. His words come to you as fast as a machine gun. A clear "Why are you coming to the United States?" becomes "whyoing to tates." Mr. Rodriguez faced with my perplexity repeats in a Puerto Rican Spanglish, "¿Porqué viene a United States?...
When leaving America, Hispanic flight assistants look at you like calculating something. Finally they approach you and ask in English "Sir would you like to fill this form in English or Spanish?" English, off course. You converse, make jokes and the more you talk the more your accent is evident, but you use it to your advantage. But when you hear those familiar voices, those expressions, you remember that philosophy class, and everything makes sense now.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." Heraclitus