Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Through My Eyes—Part 1

I couldn’t find any matches.

I had offered to make dinner, just a simple stir-fry, but when it came time for me to light the burner, I was perplexed. No matches? And how did Celsius convert to that other one? How....?

Ha! Welcome to the Land of Strange Convenience! As turned the dial and delighted at the strong, even, plentiful flame (oops! cooked them a little too long...), doused my veggies with spices (a little too much...I forgot that they are more pungent here), forgot to remove their sticker labels (stickers on vegetables? how odd) and then tried to pick them out of the frying pan... and then shouted with joy when I discovered that cling-wrap actually clings (what gloriousness!), I realized that some of the things that I initially marvelled at might also amaze some of you!

This is a two-part series of seeing the US through my eyes, based on a journal I kept during the first couple of weeks I was in the US. Enjoy!

1. Wide Aisles and other Store Stuff
I’ve talked about the lush choice offered in stores before, but it’s so shocking that it bears repeating...and to have wide, well-lit aisles set far back from the door? Well, that just makes the shopping an extra big treat. But, apart from the gargantuan numbers of choices of brands and styles (and then the shelves stocked to bursting with 50 of each option), the other major surprising thing for me has been how sweet everything tastes to me now. Cheerios, yogurt, ketchup, sauces, and other “plain” foods seem like they’ve been frosted in sugar or dunked in syrup.

2. Computers in the Windows and Stuff on the Car Seat
When I first stepped out of the Sydney airport, I gasped in shock when I saw a 5-story building arrogantly display a computer monitor in every (unbarred) window before I realized that such things aren’t as big a concern in the 1st world. Still, old habits die hard, and those first occasions of leaving purchases visible in the backseat of my car (and not needing to knot the bags so stuff didn’t fly out) or walking through the local farmers market without clutching my purse and imitating Jason Bourne were a bit tricky.

3. Sensory overload
Transiting from a high speed culture (like the US) to a slow culture (like PNG) is hard, but moving from a slow culture to a speedy one is like trying to jump on a bullet train. Just trying to keep up is intense! Walk into a store and suddenly your senses are bombarded with background music and beeping machines and flashing TVs and rotating screens and signs shouting GO HERE and RIGHT NOW and words, words, words everywhere!  Not only that, but I can, for the most part, understand everyone around me—and it feels like eavesdropping!

Electronic price tags. Weird.
4. Vents are Open, Windows are Closed
In Papua New Guinea, the barrier separating the inside from the outside is rather thin...and our windows let in air even when they are closed (good ole louvres). Climate-controlled buildings feeling extraordinarily stuffy to me, and all that air conditioning or heating or venting not only feels odd  but is really noisy!

5. RoboWorld
I told you about my smart-phone shock in Australia, but really, when I walk into Kohls and all the price tag signs have been thrown out for electronic screens? And my mom’s car syncs with her phone and the kid is playing with an iPad...When you add in the scary, talking self-checkout machine at Walmart, it’s enough to make a missionary from the jungle think she’s arrived on another planet.

Check back in a few days for Through My Eyes—Part 2!