After 18 Months in Asia- Three Oddities of the West & My Little Holiday- Houston, Texas
“Are you doing the no deodorant Indian thing?”
“How about this great perfume?” as she sprays my neck.
“Toilet paper goes in the toilet.”
“Good God, girl, where the hell are your shoes?”
I am shocked how much I don’t fit in, how I’ve changed after eighteen months in Asia, and how funny it is not to know some social norms that I used to live by. Are you ready for three oddities of the Western world?
I’m on a holiday alone in Houston, Texas and it’s really raw.
The US in Twelve-Minutes
We loved our time as a family in the US, and adored our time in the RV! We’re still drooling over the idea of a USA holidays family adventure again. Kobi made a great video that I thought I could just stick in here before I tell you the odd stuff that I still can’t totally get. It’s a great video Kobi! (The post Twelve Minutes has great pics too!)
Three Oddities of the Western World
1- Temperature-Controlled Climate
I’ve sweat for the last two and a half years. My body has learned to cherish being hot and experiencing the natural heat of the environment we reside in. On the island of the witches in the Philippines, I studied the harms of “pas-mo”, how we alter our body temperature through chilled drinks, showers when our body is warm, and A/C. On the Annapurna Circuit, we froze to death but wrapped up or got near the wood-burning fire. We chose how and when to naturally acclimate to the heat or cold around us.
And suddenly, my body is freaking out and quite pitifully so. There is air conditioning blasting in every car, house, store, and restaurant. And if it’s a bit cool, as it can be loveli-ly so in Houston in mid-November, everyone rushes to heat us to death. It’s odd this temperature-controlled world you live in. It is odd.
2- Neatly Packaged Everything
You suddenly see it when you haven’t been around it for a long time. Everything is wasteful. Everything. You’re convinced to waste, waste, waste your money at every corner and buy more and more and more stuff you don’t need in more and more and more packaging you’ll get rid of the second you get home. Everything is buy, buy, buy and it’s crazy how quickly I got into the rhythm of satisfying my voids by shopping.
I walked into Hobby Lobby with my brother and started to convince him as to why he should buy this ceramic turkey that was 80% off as a table piece for Thanksgiving.
“What am I going to do with it the rest of year?” he asks.
“I don’t know. I live out of a backpack. You have a house. Figure it out. You have shelves and cool stuff like that,” I say.
“You’re just trying to live vicariously through me, ” says my wise 26 year old brother.
Oh, yeah. That.
In the single grocery store in Chawdi (the town neighboring Goa), there are no plastic bags. Everyone brings a bag; I bring my big backpack. Around the world people are using wisely what they have. Every ounce of material is reused. At home in India and around the globe, we creatively use cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, ceramic pots, and anything else we find for second, third, and forth uses.
In the really endearing video below, we’re in Kampot, Cambodia welcoming in a new salad bowl. The last one, a Kobi-cut 5-liter water jug, served our family of five for eight months. See what a non-consumerist world could look like? [It’s another video]
I think travel and the “volume theory” has great empowered us to appreciate the little we have and only take what we’re willing to carry on our backs. The next video talks a bit about how we make those decisions. It’s from Siem Reap Cambodia. [Note: I have only the big pouch now. I’ve gotten rid of the zip lock bag.]
3- The Rush of Rushing
Around the world I’ve closed my eyes, taken a deep breath, and allowed taxi drivers do what they do best. It seems like death at every turn, but I figure it doesn’t help to claw the seat of the taxi/bus/mini-van anyhow. Strange, though, in Houston, I’m much more nervous when the driver does what seems normal in most other manic-crazy driving spots. Everything is faster paced here: walking, talking, shopping, being.
Even waiting is packaged and hurried. The believe the West is missing something major in not valuing waiting. Here it’s considered ‘poor customer service’ and a huge ‘waste of my precious time’ to wait. I’ve learned to see it as a deep meditative time to look at the people and things around me, to breathe, to be. I used to never leave the house without a book, in case I get stuck somewhere I can use my time best. Today, I enjoy just enjoying whatever is when I wait. No pre-packaged, please-allow-us-to-entertain-you-with-this-while-you-wait. No thanks. I’ll just wait.
But You Were Waiting for Goa Forever
Yeah, I was. Since I Need A Vacation where we were showering in brown water, I was waiting for this. Since all those times when I looked up at the heavens and asked why it was, again, that we chose to home-school our kids, I was waiting for this. Since we almost died on the Annapurna Circuit [title is misleading. Read it. Trust me.] and wanted just ‘one day without a near-death experience,’ I was waiting for this.
So, life is always this unpredictable. My mom wanted some attention and decided to bring all the siblings together. One in Houston, one in Israel, and one (me) from India. She arranged it all and said, “children come” so we’re listening. It’s been so many years since we’ve all sat together that I can’t even tell you when that was. So, though I was adoring our lives in Goa and finally settling down to start our yoga/meditation/work/learning slice of heavenly stability so needed after I Need A Vacation, I left. For a month.
I know! Could there be a better time for me to disappear than now? The kids are in an amazing school, we have a house, friends, adorable landlords, who party with us, the beach, a life we love, wifi at home, and the stability of five months of not moving. Yes, this would be the absolute best time to go.
And still, I had all these dreams and plans for going to the ashram for a month. I really wanted that. Meeting an amazing friend who was coming to Goa and doing great healing work with her. I really wanted that too. Getting some dusty projects off the shelf and finally doing them. Yeah. And more and more.
But, I realize that never in my adult life will I have a chance to be with my mother and my siblings without my family around. You see, never in my life, maybe, will I get the chance to sit and laugh, talk and play our family heritage’s Kalukee card game without interruption, without having to take care of my family’s needs.
This is my time to face things, to grow in areas that my adult life has done a fine job escaping and ignoring. Maybe I’ll work through them, maybe I’ll just grow that inch deeper and closer to my own light, but either way, I choose this. I bless the opportunity given to me and the amazing husband who smiled, knowing full well the weight of single fatherhood awaiting him, and said, “Of course, go!”
I’m here in Houston, Texas, and my family is in Goa, India. Yes, this is a rare treat that I am taking lovingly in both hands. Thank you Mom!
Any thoughts on the oddities of the Western world, your mom, or if I really should start using deodorant. I’m listening, but first, I’m off to play some more Kalukee [card game that our grandparents used to play] with my mommy.
Been finding all these really all-out-amazing pictures on Flickr lately. So happy to give these fine people photo credits: ,RV drawing, pretty packaging, bird and reflection, choosing through the rose and water.