Appreciating America

Posted by on Jul 9, 2013 in Uncategorized | 4 comments

This first leg of our trip has wildly exceeded our expectations.  On our flight back to the states I was literally pinching myself when I thought of all we had just experienced.  Did I really get to drive a campervan around New Zealand and sleep under the stars?  Did we actually visit the Taj Mahal at sunset before dining on Indian specialities?  Was that beach in Koh Lipe, Thailand even real?!  And the about gaining some life perspective. The amazing experiences and special people will be with us forever.  All that said, I was excited to come home.  

During this journey, Mike and I will be making two different trips back to the states for weddings and decided to use the opportunity the only way we know how:  by packing as much in as possible.  We were thrilled to meet our new niece in San Diego, spend time with family, friends, and Giordano’s pizza in Chicago, and attend a wedding and enjoy family in the northeast.  I cannot gush enough about how fabulous it was to recharge our batteries and spend time with loved ones. It reaffirmed how lucky we are to have such great people in our lives.  

Yet being home in the states also made me realize that I have picked up a few oddities as habit along our journey and that I appreciate many creature comforts from home more than I ever thought possible.  It is crazy how “normal” certain things felt while traveling Asia that I quickly realized were quite weird upon coming home.  

10 Bizarre things I appreciated upon coming home from Asia (in no particular order):

1.  Brushing my teeth with water from the faucet.
Due to the unsanitary water in most of Asia, we were required to use bottled water when brushing our teeth.  Simple right?  Just brush your teeth, spit, and clean your mouth with bottled water.  Not so simple for me. In fact, I practically had a meltdown in India when I forgot and accidentally put my toothbrush under the faucet. Luckily Mike came to my rescue and offered his brush….until I did the SAME thing to his toothbrush in a tired stupor the next night.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to once again use tap water for brushing.

2. Using and flushing toilet paper.
Most people in Asia don’t use toilet paper (that’s what your left hand or bidets are for) or western toilets. Instead, I found myself having to use the aptly named “squat” toilet and supply my own TP.  After you finally use the toilet in Asia, you are not able to flush TP because the pipes can’t handle the back up. Instead, you toss the paper in a waste basket nearby.  As odd as this may sound to some, I found myself looking for the waste basket even when I came back to the states.  It’s so crazy that after only 4 months, my new habit stuck with me.

3.  Showering in a sectioned off shower instead of over the toilet.
Almost every shower we encountered in Asia was essentially just a faucet head over the toilet.  So, in order to shower, I would first have to make sure that nothing in the bathroom was on the floor or exposed that would get wet.  Then, I would confirm with Mike that he didn’t have to use the bathroom. And finally, I would stand over the toilet and attempt to get clean soaking the entire bathroom floor in the process.  How nice it was to have a dedicated spot to shower upon coming home.

4.  Using diapers on babies.
OK I never even knew I had an opinion about diapers until they were no longer there. But in China, parents instead opt for pants with a big slit in them.  So Chinese babies go pee and poop in public!!! Mike and I saw several tots peeing on the sidewalk but it was not until we spied a baby pooping on a busy Shanghai street that I was traumatized.  

5.  Walking down the street without getting honked at or risk getting clipped by a tuk tuk.
I thought I had really grown accustomed to the frantic pace of Asia’s streets. Almost everyone is on a motorbike (sometimes up to 5 people per bike), driving crazy, and honking.  I enjoyed being able to jaywalk at will and stopped being nervous that I was going to get hit.  After coming home however, one of the first things I noticed was the order, calmness, and quiet of American streets….I loved it.

6.  Hearing American English.
Call me crazy but it made me so happy to hear American English spoken.  No more straining to figure out what the other person was saying.  No more missing out on conversation because things get lost in translation.  I even embraced the strong Chicago and Boston accents I had previously rolled my eyes at.

7.  Shopping without getting hawked.
One constant across all of Asia is getting hawked at by street vendors.  I felt like I was wearing a sign that read “I am an easy target and can’t wait to spend a lot of money with you!”  We couldn’t walk by a market with having some yell, “HELLO MISS, very special deal for you!”  The vendors were relentless, they would bargain all day, repeatedly yell out to you, and even touch you sometimes.  While I never seemed to get the hang of the effective blow off, Mike would either start speaking in Spanish (which would throw them off giving us enough time to escape) or say, “Sorry, I already bought one”. For the record, both are effective techniques.

8.  Clean laundry.
We did laundry along the way in the sink with a bar of soap or by occasionally sending it out at a hotel. While I never felt dirty, I was in awe by how fresh my clothes smelled after washing them in my parents’ washer and dryer.  I even found myself smelling them inadvertently throughout the day. 

9.  Readily available food.
While we never went hungry, there were certain times that I would be craving a snack but didn’t have anything. This is true of travel anywhere in the world. It was fantastic to be home and be able to have that night cap of wine or bag of chips as an afternoon snack, without having to figure out where I could purchase safe and edible foods.

10. Being alone.
The top three questions I was asked during my week home were: 1. Does it feel weird to be back? A: Not really  2. What was your favorite place to travel? A: New Zealand and 3. How is your relationship going since you spend so much time together?  I am happy to report that the answer to number three was a no brainer….our marriage is going great!  But I will admit that it was nice to have a few hours to myself during my time in the states.  While I at times found it difficult to make simple decisions without my better half (who knew that choosing a nail polish color would give me pause?), it was refreshing to have some true alone time to reflect on our journey and gear up for the next leg….

Africa, here we come!


  1. Great summation Kat…loved it. Miss and love you both

  2. This was one of the best blogs Kat , We always say appreciate the small things in life – and never do . what an experience you are having ,,

  3. I love the 10 things. I am so looking forward to having a long and chatty visit in early December. Much Love, Grama Mary

  4. Love this post kitty!!!

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