Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zen Surfing in the First World

The other night in bed, as I was trying to dislodge a flying insect who seemed incredibly determined to climb down my ear canal, I realised for the umpteenth time that I really miss the USA.  I really had the time of my life there and to list every little thing that I enjoyed there would be very hard indeed, but just off the top of my head, here (in no particular order) are some of the American things I really miss:

Free drink refills.  Such an amazing thing and yet it seemed like I was the only one who really appreciated it!  I tried my darnedest to have my own body weight in soda refills everytime I ate out.  Sure, I had to pee like Seabiscuit for the rest of the day but it was so worth it!

Rootbeer.  I am forever grateful to my cousin who told me to try rootbeer.  The stuff is like nectar of the gods and it breaks my heart that it's not sold in South Africa.

Beer.  Now make no mistake, South Africa has no shortage of beers to choose from but it tends to be pretty straightforward stuff, lagers and pilseners mostly.  The US on the other had gave me a dazzling array of interesting beers to choose from.  I loved everything in the Sam Adams collection and the first time I saw 20 different beers on tap in a restaurant I think I blacked out for a few seconds!  Special mention to Harvest Moon pumkin ale.  If someone said, "here, try this pumpkin beer" I would have been all "no thanks!", but I accidentally tried one at a party and boy was I pleasantly surprised!

No Taxis.  Allow me to clarify, by "taxi" I refer to the South African minibus taxis - overloaded, poorly maintained, unroadworthy deathtraps that speed along our streets with zero regard for the law or anyone's safety.  They stop where and when they want, turn whenever they feel like it, are constantly honking their horns to attract customers and tend to take traffic signs as mere suggestions. 

Geen donnerse sokkie gatstamp treffers nie!!  OK, non-South Africans won't get that but trust me, if you knew how horrible popular Afrikaans music was you would have been happy to be without it for a bit too!

Snow.  I wrote a whole blog about it, do I really need to say more?

Silent nights.  OK so this one is not so much something I miss about the US in general, it's something I miss about Sparks, Nevada.  I loved the quiet of the high desert.  Here I have to cope with a nightly chorus of crickets, frogs, dogs, cats and birds (and the occasional alarm going off somewhere on the block).  There I only had blessed silence.  Also not once did any bugs try to violate my earhole and I really miss that!

Being foreign.  Being a stranger in a strange land was great.  For a month and a half I got to be exotic and interesting and all I had to do was be myself.  Over there, my accent was actually considered sexy.  *Sigh*  I miss that...

Variety.  I am a big fan of variety and the US offered me more than I could take.  Americans take a lot of flak from certain groups for the fact that they like everything bigger and bolder but really, screw those guys!  I loved the living crap out of American muchness!  I thought Wallmart was incredible and I loved Costco!  I loved standing in a grocery isle or in front of a fast food menu in a state of shock and awe.  Why should there be 5 kinds of Vanilla Ice Cream to choose from?  Who cares?! It's fantastic!!  If variety is the spice of life then America gave me a flavour overload - and I loved every second of it!

Mexican food.  What could be more American than Mexican food?  I loved it so much but sadly it is virtually unheard of around here.  If I want taco's I have to make it myself - if I can find the ingredients that is.

Junk food.  Fine, we have plenty of our own junk food here.  We even have American junk food here - McDonalds and KFC - but what we have here simply does not compare to the delicious madness of actual American junk food.  In the US, I got to experience food with the safety off, where the only question you have to answer is "Are you a fan of delicious flavour?".  This is food at its orgiastic pinnacle - uninhibited, wild and joyful!  It's food as it should be in other words, the kind that makes your eyes roll back in your head while your tastebuds go zing!!  Chicken sandwich made of chicken?  Pizza with 3 kinds of bacon?  Would I like cheese with that?  Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!!

Law abiding citizens.  I wrote about this in my previous blog, it was great to live in a place where the law was not treated as a suggestion.  Cars stopped for me at crosswalks.  Security guards didn't treat me like a would be shoplifter on general principle when I walked into a store.  I didn't see any litter (though with a $1000 fine for littering, that made total sense!).  When a traffic cop pulled you over he doesn't expect a bribe.  It was... refreshing...

Climate control.  Yes, we do have air conditioners in South Africa but no one I know of can boast that the temperature of their entire house is controlled by one thermostat, yet in the US it seemed pretty standard (it's only in office buildings here).  Having your house permanently set to t-shirt weather, regardless of the weather was pretty darn sweet!

Good internet & TV.  In the US I got to sample a couple of the great websites that are not available those outside the USA, like Hulu and Pandora.  Furthermore not only was there a dazzling array of channels to choose from (I currently have 4) but I got to see all my favourite shows hot and fresh - not a season late (like on SA TV) or even a day late (if I download the episode).

Now this is by no means an exhaustive list, I could go on and on.  I had so many wonderful times and met so many great people.  I miss Taco nights, Doughnut Bistro and Jack in the Box's Steak & Egg burritos on Sunday mornings.  I miss Francesca the coffee maker, the gas stove and the dishwasher (OK so we have all those in SA too but I don't have them in my home so I miss them).  I miss Wednesday night poker, getting to try new things and experiencing so many things for the first time.  More than anything though I miss being part of a family.  The Meredith family didn't just let me into their home, they really opened up their world to me and allowed me to be a part of it.  I got to spend time with their kids (which I rarely do), even played with them (which I've never done).  They gave me so much more than a bed to sleep in and a dinner table to sit at and for that they will always be in my heart.  I haven't felt like part of a household for a very long time and it meant the world to me.  Guess that is why leaving Reno felt more like leaving home than leaving Pretoria ever did.


Plucky said...

We miss you so much Eugene and we still consider you part of our family even though you're not here . . . You represented the South African people with such dignity and poise that it made me want to come visit your country. After all, a country that produced a quality man such as yourself must have many good features . . .

Eugene said...

You are always welcome here Tim!