Thursday, February 06, 2014

What most excites me about my return to America

Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post detailing all the things I will miss once about living overseas when we return to America in June.

Now I am going to pen a list detailing the things I will not miss.

I will note that I found it interesting the comparison between these two lists. The items on my "loves of overseas" were much bigger in scope. These things I miss about America? They are all fairly trivial "luxury" items. Nonetheless, it's what I am feeling right now.

I am most excited to return to ...
24-hour options
There's an uncomfortable feeling, especially as a parent, knowing that once the sun goes down, your ability to get anything is basically ... nil. I really miss the confidence of knowing that if I run out of something, especially medications or diapers or formula, I can find somewhere to get them. I cannot tell you the number of times someone on our local yardsale page writes a message that says: "Anyone have any eggs? I'll buy them from you. I'm halfway through a cake and just ran out."

Early openings

Four years of nothing opening until 10am is enough for me! I couldn't even believe that I could go to Target at like, 8am in the USA. Obviously the people who designed these hours didn't have children and didn't realize that the real world is up and moving before it is time for lunch. I can add to this how frustrating it is that the Commissary closes two days a week for two days in a row. Both in Turkey and here, Sunday and Monday meant nothing was open. You have to get everything you need on Saturday or you have no other option as there is no store off-Base that has the things we typically cook with.


Oh ice, how I miss you. I loved the scene on one episode of Downton Abbey when the American uncle comes to visit and wants everything cold. Here on the island, businesses are used to catering to Americans so the drinks are at least kept ... cold. But in Turkey, lukewarm water and soda was the name of the game. Not enjoyable. We Americans like our ice, but Europeans find it frivolous and pointless.

Free water
I can't wait to just order a glass of water for FREE! So many years of paying for water and therefore making sure every last drip was drunk. In addition, I do find myself drinking Coke more often than I would in America because I have the attitude of, "Well, if I have to pay for it, I might as well make it something good."
Temperature control
What I mean by this is having air conditioning when it is hot and heat when it is not -- especially in places of business. Most places, both in Turkey and here on the island, did not have a/c or heat in them. This meant that if was beastly hot outside, there was no sitting down in a restaurant to cool off. (JB wants me to note that he doesn't miss this at all -- he thinks it is an extreme waste of energy. So noted husband of mine.) 

Church choices
I miss being able to worship in a place that fits me and my family. The choices Americans have regarding church are incredible and quite honestly, not realistic to the rest of the world. Nonetheless, I still long to be able to pick where I worship.

A variety of food (grocery shopping)
This might be the biggest thing we miss. Our Commissaries in Turkey and here, are SOOO incredibly small. The choices are SOOO incredibly limited. Even moreso than the lack of choices are the times that they run out of things -- especially produce, meat, and dairy. I long to have precious produce at my fingertips again! This past week we went grocery shopping. JB did produce and came out with one fruit ... apples. "That's it?" I asked. He explained that there was absolutely nothing else there worth spending money on. Not only are the choices few, but because they are shipping the produce from Germany and other places, it goes bad incredibly fast.

Confidence when speaking
Angelica and I in Spain

Being confident of what you are saying and what you are asking and not having to "simplify" your wording to try and be understood is a gift we take for granted. Not knowing the language is a frustrating feeling. I remember going to Spain with my friend Angelica -- Spanish by birth. I was amazed at how different she behaved in a place where she held confidence in the language. She often joked, "I am way funnier in Spanish." When I hung around Angelica in Turkey she was soft-spoken and blended in the background more. But in Spain, she was the one asking for directions and directing where we should go. Everything changed. I also found that in Turkey, when I went out with my friends, I was the "go-to" Turkish speaker. It was exhausting. When my Turkish friend Rana came with, I was immediately able to relax knowing that she could come through in a crunch. (Here's a link to a funny story about a messed up McDonald's order in Turkey.)

Slower drivers when kids are near
A Turkish Stop sign

While not a lot can be said for American drivers, one thing is for certain. For the most part, there is a learned cultural norm in America that when children are in view, you slow down. Not here. Not in Turkey. Turkish and Portuguese drivers do not seem to factor in that a child may fall or sprint out in front of you unexpectedly. They do not slow down whatsoever when they see me walking with my four children. They just keep going the same speed -- leaving no room for error. Here is a link to a past post I wrote detailing driving in Turkey.

Just driving somewhere 
JB with the boys at SeaWorld before we moved to Turkey

I long to get in our van and just take a roadtrip. Anywhere! We could do this in Turkey to a certain degree, but limitations due to tensions in the Middle East and language barriers basically prevented it. Here, well, this island is so gosh-darn small. Our van is a 2002 with only 88,000 miles on it. This is because we haven't really had anywhere to drive it.

Being able to say "Yes! I can come!"
A trip to see my Grama in Chicago after Isaac was born. (She is holding up a picture of my Dad so as to have four generations in the photo.)

 I long to get an invite to a big event in someone's life or to hear about a funeral or wedding and instead of saying, "There is no way I can do that," I can say, "Hey, ummm ... maybe I can go!" Being a flight away is very different than being thousands of dollars and possibly two or more days travel away.

A land of non-blocked websites
I can't wait to be on the Internet and not see, "We're sorry. That video is not available in your country."

Radios stations
One stinkin' radio station -- and each time it is the local military station which isn't anywhere close to things we listen to in America. Christian stations? Forget it. I just want to be able to say, "Country? Today? I think I will!"
A variety of food (eating out) 
While I have enjoyed the uniqueness of the food in both countries we have lived in, the variety is lacking. Turkish food was amazingly delicious, and I miss it greatly. But every restaurant basically afforded the exact same menu. Portugal has a little more variety, but basically, our cuisine choices are still greatly limited. I can't wait to have Indian, Thai, Chinese ... you name it, and we can eat it!

A place where I can read instructions, ingredients, and directions
Joan and I in the nothing-spoken-but-Turkish market during our years in Turkey

Just to pick up a box and be able to read what it says. Does it have eggs in it? (My son Isaac is allergic to eggs.) What temperature do I cook it on? How do I make it? I miss being able to see words I know.

Stroller-friendly sidewalks and pathways

I don't even see the point of trying to take a stroller around Turkey or Portugal. So many steps, no ramps, cobblestone and uneven everywhere. I can't imagine needing a wheelchair in either of these places, let alone a stroller.

Grocery carts that you don't drive sideways
Grocery carts that don't slide sideways. Click the link to see a youtube video demonstrating the terrible, awful grocery carts in Europe. They slide everywhere, and I am pretty sure I've never seen a strap to hold baby in place.

Big parking spots! 
Oh my, oh my! This one is also one of the top on my list. These itsy bitsy teeny tiny parking lots created for cars half the size of mine can wear you out!

Family entertainment
The kids and I in front of the Washington Monument
A museum, amusement park, park ... how we long as a family to have the opportunity to do some of these fun things together again. We just miss the wide offering of activities afforded to people in America. We can't wait to have them at our fingertips again.

I never knew how amazing a drive-thru was until I had children, and now that I have four kids and not a single drive-thru or fast food option of any sort, man I crave them. The ability to get what I need without taking four kiddos out of the car is not lost on me whatsoever.

What am I missing folks? To those of you who have lived overseas, what do you miss most about America?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny thing is, I look forward to some of these luxuries as well & I'm still in the states :). NC is going to be overload in some ways. Oh, how we can't wait to be overloaded!

Hope everyone is feeling better soon!