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Posted on Nov 23, 2013

After 18 Months in Asia- Three Oddities of the West & My Little Holiday- Houston, Texas

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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Choosing This

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!”

Your Turn

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.

Gabi

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.

Comments

comments

31 Comments

  1. Can I go visit you????

    • oh my love. i couldn’t be more honored. will you bring the sister and the other diva and we can all cry and laugh together? where are you love?

  2. Wow, I didn’t know you were in Houston…you are only a 2hr plane ride from me in San Miguel…Come visit me next!

    • oh the temptation my love, oh, the temptation. who needs my ashram if i have my val? would be unreal amazing. the seed has been planted. let me see how it’s watered and how that may bear fruit. i love you. thanks for the amazing, unreal, out of this earth invitation. mwah. gabi

      • I would so love for you to come….Houston to Mexico City…not very far…I love you, and would love some girl goddess time with you!!

  3. So much fun to read your posts and watch your videos! Love that you’re spending time with Mom!

    • thank you so much for taking the time to comment vicki. i love that you love reading. i’m greatly happy inside knowing that you look forward to my posts. if you don’t want to miss any, you can subscribe to the rss on the top right and each time i write something it will come straight to your inbox. thank you soooooo much. gabi

  4. Gabi!!! LOVE your writing…LOVE your sharing… Agree with you totally that so many people do seem to be in such a hurry. I feel sad for them… I know that when I’m driving and someone hurries to pass me I let them go ahead. It doesn’t bother me… I trust that I will be where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there. For them, I only hope that they are not hurrying to an early grave. Alas… there is still SO MUCH left to enjoy!

    Pvt msg me … perhaps we can connect while you’re in Texas!! (((HUGS)))

    –c–

    • carolyn. sooo much to say to you my dallas/boquete friend. thank you for loving me, following me, being there, commenting and supporting me every damn step of the way. god, if there is anyone who wants proof of angels, you are it. thank you for being the glue who brings so much light to so many carolyn. i have much to learn from you. i know…. rush, rush, rush, rush. i’m with my brother in a store and i find myself slowly looking at boxes and people’s faces and hearing mexicans speak spanish, which i love dearly, and watching details and he’s run off to the next isle and i’m like, ‘oh sorry’ and try to keep up. 🙂 funny. even when i lived in the states, when i wasn’t terribly late to an appointment which i usually was, i always blessed whoever was in a hurry on the road that they arrive there in peace without harming themselves or others. i always felt compassion for them for who knows what they were goign through or what their life was like. there is soooooo much left to enjoy. i do pray the winds blow you into houston dear. that would be beyond cool. all my love, gabi

  5. גבי!
    כל מה שרצית לעשות באשרם, תעשי עם המשפחה שלך, הרי רוב הריפוי דרוש לנו בזכות הילדות עם המשפחה שלנו, פה את ממש חוזרת למקורות.
    לגבי הבזבוז שיש בעולם, את צודקת לחלוטין, השינוי צריך לבוא מבפנים בתוכנו ואז נוכל ליישם את זה למרות כל הפיתויים. זה מה שאני משתדלת לעשות. עמי לא מאמין שאני לא קונה מבצעים רק אם צריך. אבל באמת, אני לא נופלת לפח הזה.
    בקיצור, אני מתגעגעת אליך, לפני שאת חוזרת לארץ, תעטרכי לעבוד עם עצמך ולראות אם את מסוגלת לחיות בצורה האמיתית שאת גם במקום כמו קרית שמונה, ישראל. או שתוכלי לחיות כך רק כשאת מטיילת?
    אוהבת

    • i love you yael. i’ve missed you and i love it that you write and keep up and love me and all my hiccups and growth all the was from metula and LA. yes, you are write. i can do all the work i need to do right here, facing things that are deep inside, and not only in the safe and romantic arms of an ashram. thank you. but it’s sooooo much easier to do it in the ashram 🙂 the wasting is crazy, crazy and yes, i see myself diapprove but quickly fall into the habits of those around me. it’s like i’m blowing a kiss into a storm, too much effort that won’t make a difference feeling for me. 🙂 thank you. yes, i will live with my oddities, i hope, also here in houston and also so in kiryat shemona, i hope, and not just when i am traveling the world. i have so much to work on and learn yawl. this is a great place to do that. yes. i miss you too. gabi

  6. Air Con makes us sick. I’m sure of it. Give me a mozzy net and a ceiling fan any day. I thought you’d been quiet, now I know why 🙂

    • surprise, surprise, surprise! (gomer phlye style- not sure how you spell that) oh i owe you some amazing comments. your husband is 11 years younger than you? i love that, adore that, believe in that with all of my heart. love it. i’ll write you back there shortly. so in australia it’s not all a/c world either. i love you sista. gabi

      • No, we very rarely use the A/C in Port Douglas, middle of the day round Christmas time sometimes, but never at night.

  7. Oh this is great! I would love to spend time alone with my siblings and mother. Soak up every moment and enjoy to the fullest. It is odd what we used to think was so important and how travel can change you. Just live each day to the fullest and at a pace you enjoy. Bathe in the love Gabi.

  8. Gabi, how wonderful that your mom arranged this trip and that you are taking the time to join her. You’re dead on about the waste, waste culture…I can’t stand it and am horrified when we go back to the US, even for a few days. All that money (all that life energy) squandered on junk destined to poison our planet. Are you still in the US now?

  9. This happens to me all the time after a year in Spain! I’m not used to the air conditioning (and find myself cold), I can’t get over mealtimes and am often overwhelmed at the supermarket. America is so big and loud and brash in so many instances, and even having lived there for 22 years, it sometimes feels foreign to me.

  10. It doesn’t even take 18 months… And then the other way happens. We spend a few months back in English speaking countries and all of a sudden the non-english is way more scary and foreign. On the upside it shows how adaptable we really are and how awesome that makes us 🙂 From London to Prague to Dubai to Australia we are culture-shocking at every turn at the moment lol.

    • culture-shocking parent. you’re poor poor kids. what have you done to them. and now, going home for a bit, or longer? wow. i can’t wait to see how it all goes for you. yes, i’m in houston now and they drive on the right side of the road. sooo odd after india’s left side, kind of, on a motorcycle. love to you erin. gabi

  11. Oh Gabi this is so true! We’re always astounded by how big and brash everything in Canada seems (the people, the cars, even the food) when we come back from overseas. I thought it was just coming back from Asia, but we had a bit of the same reaction coming back from Spain as well.

    • big and brash says it so well. i just got 4 debit cards in the mail. i asked for two. and each was sent from the same address to the same address on the same date and they sent each card in an envelope inside of an envelope. so, i got 8 envelopes where the task could have been accomplished in two. and yes, it all went straight to the trash. sigh. wow, from spain you felt the difference too? maybe the western world will wake up faster to the truth of what it can be without so much. not sure for so much money comes from the consumerism propaganda that it pays to keep people deep in that wastefulness. sigh.

  12. I haven’t been back to the UK since i left 3.5 years ago, so it will be interesting to see how I feel when I eventually do go back. That will probably be 2nd half of next year, so will be well over 4 years away. I imagine that it will seem completely alien to me after spending all that time in Asia. It will be interesting though.

    • i can’t wait to see your thoughts after returning to ‘civilization’ or is it really? 3.5 years you’ve been meandering? where have you been manfred? i have to read more of your blog you renegade! somuch love and respect, and yes, it will all seem veeeeeery alien. gabi

  13. It’s going to be interesting when we go back to the UK in June, after 15 months of travelling. I have to say though, there is quite a lot of wastefulness here in SE Asia, lots of locals simply throwing their rubbish away and the Air-Con on the buses and in cars is unbearable at times. Enjoy your family time! 🙂

    • wow. 15 months…. are you ready? yes, andrew there is waste, i agree but compare it with the west where we create sooo much more rubbish, where we have air-con everywhere and not just on tourist bused and cars are a household item, not motorbikes which create much less pollution. enjoying. off to play cards with mom. hugs, gabi

  14. Not fitting in can be a very GOOD thing, Gabi.

    • you are amazingly kind vicki, erin’s mom’s friend. thank you!

  15. We just got back from Costa Rica and I hesitated for a few seconds about where to put the toilet paper when we got back to our house. We were gone for only one week! I can’t imagine what the transition must be like after 18 months. BTW, I’m a fan of deodorant.

    • i know! it’s that hysterical mary how quickly we get used to new conditions. so yes with the deodorant? i’m thinking about it. 🙂 thank you dear mary.

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