Variety & Efficiency
"I adore simple pleasures…they are the last refuge of the complex." Wilde
Although I don't agree with everything about the United States – I still feel I won the baby lottery in being born within its borders. And although I dislike some things about the culture – the US is still my home, my 'normal', and my #1 love with regards to a country. There is a lot to love about the States and our culture. Part of that reason is simply because that's where I was raised.
Undoubtedly, I've missed my friends and family the most. But, this blog is about some of the more simple taken-for-granted things that I've really missed about home – some I knew I would miss a lot but they still deserve a mention. And of course I've missed out on all the luxuries…but those need not be mentioned.
A lot of extraordinary things lie in the ordinary if you choose to see them…or have had to put up with different for 2 years.
Like...sidewalk etiquette. Anytime I'm walking in Huaraz, I appreciate the sidewalk etiquette of our big cities. We walk with a purpose…most are aware if they are blocking a walkway and move, people are not allowed to set up a store wherever their fancy chooses, and generally people are thoughtful of others. Even those who are strolling get out of the way, enabling both to do their own thing. The sidewalk etiquette of our country is a beautiful thing. Where I live, the sidewalk etiquette is practically non-existent. Plus – all sidewalks usually have some form of animal excrement and huge holes…so you have to always watch where you are stepping.
Diversity...everyone is the same color here – give or take a few shades. I like the States with different races, religions, sizes, colors, shapes, etc. It creates problems, yes – but it also creates a lot of beauty (at least for me). Also, I miss having black friends, Asian friends, white friends, homosexual friends, etc. I prefer the diversity of the States.
American girls...yes I have a girlfriend here and she's great and a source of sanity for me since she has a lot in common with American girls, mentally and physically – but I still miss blondes, brunettes, redheads, African-Americans, Persians, Europeans, Asians, et cetera. In American society, girls are more liberal and experimental with their looks and that's nice to see (more money for clothes also).
- One example was during the last meeting in Lima with my entire training group – I commented to Frank how all the girls were really dressed nicely and looked great when we went out to the bars on Friday night and how weird that was – then Frank, who has been to the States twice during his service, pointed out to me that's what girls normally do…I've just been out in the boonies too long to remember. I was like, "oh yeah, you're right."
For instance, this photo - both girls are American. I didn't have to convince them - I asked, they thought it was funny, done. Plus, on the same topic – and I can't really complain about this because I don't have much of one myself…but most girls where I live don't have much of a behind (it's also hard to find bras with C-cups or higher…). Peruvians on the coast share more physical characteristics with American girls but that's not where I live. Also – American girls, I think, are sassier – and I like that. Plus, I like girls that challenge me mentally – and here, there isn't as much confrontation and people don't call out 'bullshit'. Also, I have a thing for athletic girls…and I can't think of a single athletic Peruvian girl here. I don't think the men here appreciate it…perhaps they find it too challenging to their manhood or something. Also, I consider myself a feminist (in the sense of equality but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate sexuality)…and that's not found here either. So, my apologies to the ladies back home reading this because you may not relate to what I'm saying (since you would be talking about American guys if you were here)…but you're beautiful and I miss you.
- I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but it seems an appropriate place to me (though I have a loose definition of "appropriate") – most are familiar with the term "beer goggles". Well…there is also "Peace Corps goggles" that you get from living out in the boonies for too long and they are arguably more powerful and deceiving…the two goggles combined are very, very dangerous.
Lines...while I might hate them…they do serve a purpose and we collectively benefit by keeping them orderly. Some lines have order here – like outside a bank. On the first of every month, you can be assured there are orderly lines wrapping around the block of people waiting to cash their paycheck. BUT…when it comes to getting onto a combi, the people here don't even wait for the others to get off before trying to cram on. They literally push and shove with their bodies. Sometimes I deal with it…other times when I have little patience I just wait for the next combi. Sometimes I tell the group they are acting like a bunch of monkeys…they'll look at me but no one ever says anything. Same thing in the market – if it's busy and you're not a little pushy, you won't get attention. Perhaps our ability for orderliness shows how well taken care of we are…
Food...I lucked out when it comes to the food of a country…Peru has delicious food. My favorite 3 are ceviche, lomo saltado, and aji de gallina. Lots of deliciousness. But…the tastes of home are sorely missed, whether it's Dad & Mom's cooking, ethnic restaurants, even chain restaurants (like Olive Garden or Outback) and sometimes that American fast-food crap does sound good….like a chipotle burrito or spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's or anything from Taco Bell or a hung-over Sunday pizza delivery or IHOP trip. The food from home is very high on the things I miss.
Lunchtime...there isn't a single thing going on around lunchtime where I'm at. Everyone is chilling out. Now that can be cool…unless you want to get stuff done you have to wait till 3 or 4 until things get back under way. I prefer our way…even if lunch tends to be more rushed. For instance - I came into Huaraz today to buy a hard drive for a computer I'm fixing up for the artisans I work with...I couldn't between 1-3:30 because they are lunching.
Roads... I've mentioned this before, but every time I get in a form of transportation, I am acutely aware of my mortality...part of this reason is due to the roads where I live. It's like a video game set on 'extremely challenging' where the object is not to hit a pothole...nobody wins but everyone still tries...even if you can't see around the curve ahead. Things like roads don't really get fixed up where I live. I find them scary and I wonder if my likelihood of getting in a crash increases over time or if it's more like rolling dice, where the previous outcome has no influence over the next outcome...
Garbage...the States is much more adept at taking it away and putting where we can't see it...which is good for our visual pleasure...although perhaps that's one reason why America produces so much trash - we don't understand just how much we produce. Sometimes...trash here just gets dumped wherever - like this photo, this is one of the main roads in Huaraz. This has helped me increase my awareness of how much trash I produce and increased my desire to lessen that amount.
Weather...I'm a huge fan of seasons. I love them all. Only two seasons here – dry and wet. I've come to be a fan of these seasons as well – but back home, there is just more variety, and I like variety. Plus…rainy weather every day for 5 to 6 months is tiresome.
Variety and efficiency...those seem to be two of the themes – I guess those are two great things about the USA that don't exist here. (of course, variety and efficiency are not guaranteed even in our society, especially when it comes to things like a Two party system or healthcare)