Thursday, May 26, 2016

20 Super Cool and Odd Things about Life in the First World

Like the frog that doesn’t notice he’s boiling in slowly heated water, it’s easy to become immune to the amazing or strange things that surround us all the time. Lucky for me, whenever I swap from one world to another, I get to enjoy observing those little forgotten things over and over again (the rather less enjoyable side is called [reverse] culture stress but I’ll write more about another day.) Now that I’ve been in the US for two weeks (I'm starting my home assignment, after a couple of years in Papua New Guinea), here are a few of the things that have stuck out to me.
And autumn colors! Gorgeous (Queenstown, NZ)
  1. People like to watch the weather on TV and read weather forecasts on the internet and listen to weather people on the radio, and then plan life accordingly. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), we just assume it’s going to rain, and voila! Forecast is done.
  2. The leaves of Minnesota trees are super small. Like dollhouse leaves. How cute.
  3. In PNG, the rainforests are dense, dark environments, where the light struggles through the top canopy and there is so much groundcover and ginormous ferns and other tropical plants that you can’t see much ahead of you, and you need a bush knife to clear the trail. Here, the forests are much more open and spread out, and light radiates through the trees until everything is glowing and magical.
  4. Houses are anchored solidly on the ground and are so tightly sealed that outside sounds are very muted and the air feels processed. However, the house itself is incredibly noisy with dishwasher sounds and water softeners and heaters and fans and other such creative inventions.
  5. Air conditioning is super cold.
  6. We can do laundry in the evening!! (In PNG, it takes hours and hours to do one load of laundry, and with no dryer, you need to start early enough to catch the sun).
  7. There is this household chore called vacuuming. Even the airports are fully carpeted!!
  8. People walk really fast.
  9. People put ice in their water, and they FILL ENTIRE COOLERS with ice when they have a party!!! Whoa!
  10. No one comes to your house uninvited. No one walks by and stares in, no one stops at your gate to bring you 5 bags of lettuce and ask for help with dental fees, no one shows up to ask if they could borrow sugar, a ladder, and would you want to play croquet this afternoon? It’s…weird.
  11. The sun is very weak. I could be out in it and my skin wasn’t frying instantly. Maybe that’s why the same temperature here feels much warmer in PNG.
  12. Thunderstorms are rather pathetic, umbrellas actually keep you dry, and even better, because houses aren’t built with tin roofs, you can actually carry on a conversation when it rains!
  13. We get junk mail! Actually, we get mail at all!!
  14. There is wifi on airplanes and on roads and in cities!
  15. No one stares at you when you walk down a street. They seem to think you look normal and are doing a normal thing.
    I don't attract an audience here!
  16. The sun bizarrely stays light until 9 or 10 pm…and dusk lasts for hours! (PNG is 12 hours of light—from 6am to 6 pm, and it varies about 15-20 min from “summer” to “winter”).
  17. Store aisles are incredibly wide, well lit, and the floors are so clean, you could have a meal on them.
  18. Spices are spicy, and cling wrap clings. I can’t tell you how exciting that is.
  19. Seat belts work. There are seat belts in the first place.
  20. We’re not going to talk about the incredible thing that is a grocery store. Or clothing store. We’re just going to revel in it.
Look at the size of those buildings! And all the modern boats! (Auckland, NZ)
When I started making the list, I found I couldn't stop at 20! So check back next week for yet another 20 bizarre and awesome qualities of first world life.