We’ve been here over two years now, and it’s interesting the different thoughts that come to mind when I return to the USA. It’s the same trip back to the same country, but different things seem to strike me as noteworthy.
Of course there is the main thing that never changes. It’s wonderful to see my daughters and families in person. Email, Facebook, and video chats are great and keep us in touch but there is no substitute for actually being there. We all enjoy each others company and have a wonderful time anytime we are together. Now that they are in the workforce, and becoming homeowners and parents, it is even more exciting to see where their lives are going.
But, as for being in the country, I notice the transition takes a little longer every time. Everyone is still very tall. I am so used to walking out into a Spanish speaking world that I had to remind myself for the first 2-3 days to speak English. It’s cold! (duh, it is winter up there). I was better prepared this time though with layers, fuzzy socks, hiking boots, and my winter coat so I was much more comfortable.
This time I was especially struck by stuff. There are big stores everywhere, and they are all so full of things to buy. How many people does it take to buy all this stuff, and how much does each person or household buy? The stores are all new and shiny and clean and everything is labeled and beautifully displayed. Even the potatoes are scrubbed before they are put on the shelf, and the greens get misted regularily.
The cost of things is always a shock, and this time was no exception.. We have seen prices rising here, but I was surprised to see many things that we consider expensive and imported here are just as much there, and sometimes more. An ordinary trip to the supermarket for 2-3 days worth of food for 4 can easily run over $100. I have now had my reality shock and will not complain about the price of anything here! (at least until I forget prices there and have to go back for a refresher shock treatment).
The above are Safeway prices. The more upscale stores are even farther out of reach.
Everything is very clean and orderly. Grass is manicured. Streets are clean. There are road signs, cross walks, bike lanes, and smooth streets. With this, however, go all the rules. If you are building something, you can’t dump the pile of sand and block in the street in front of the house. If the neighbors are running an auto body shop in the front yard, someone will be over PDQ to shut that down. I know we give up a lot of that orderly life to live here, but I have come to love the free attitude. You do what you need to do and nobody fusses. And, in truth, very little of what your neighbors do is actually a bother.
People are IN their houses. There are some people out for exercise or walking dogs, but in general there aren’t people on the streets and front doors are closed. Here, always, there are people walking, biking, chatting, and playing in the streets. People often have their front doors open or are socializing on the front terrace or in the yard under a tree. So much of life is lived outdoors here, and dropping in to visit someone any old time is perfectly normal. In the USA everyone is so busy it can take days to arrange a time to visit a friend.
I did see some birds and flowers that we don’t usually see.
It definitely isn’t spring in much of the US, but since California has a more temperate climate it was nice to see some of the things I associated with spring as a kid.
I also have a shopping list every time I return, and it’s always something different. Often it is shoes or clothes (hard for a big gringa to buy in this land of smaller people), or some spice or little thing I don’t find here. This time it was bike gear (I want to go traveling, so a rack, panniers, tent, sleeping mattress, gloves, a solar charger for my iPad, and a new pair of shorts). My MP3 player bit the dust, so I bought another. I must have two on hand because I can’t live without my audio books. Oh, and fabric dye for my badly faded biking shirts, and another new shirt. Most of this was ebay or other on line purchases bought ahead of time for pickup at my daughter’s house.
My husband bought guitar strings because his spares had rusted through in the tropical humidity, and some other miscellaneous music related things. He bought a number of LED lights to cut down on our electricity use, and the light they put out is also much softer and more pleasant than our former florescent bulbs. We bought a timer for the fridge so it won’t be using power during the night, a new cable for an iPad charger… I think that’s about it.
There are things you just can’t predict. Everyone has stuff they ended up not using, and other things they wished they had brought. Everyone seems to have some thought about the transition to and from the USA that they weren’t expecting. It’s all part of the experience and certainly keeps life interesting!