I have lived in the United States for most of my life. And many of the things that are common place there are not common place in other parts of the world. I had become used to those things being part of life, but during my time in Ethiopia I lived without many of those things and in turn that became my new normal. I didn’t need/have them and when I returned to America, it came as a bit of a shock to me and found them a little weird. Here are the top five weird things for me when I returned to America:
- Grocery Stores
Grocery stores were easily the craziest thing to me when I went back to America for my home leave. I don’t mean crazy in the sense of not be able to believe that kind of place could exists, but just in the sheer volume of options that exists. I know; I sound crazy but when you live off bananas and avocados, coming home to peaches, apples, plums, grapes, strawberries and many more can be a little overwhelming. I first went to the grocery store with Eddie and he wondered how I would take it. How did I? I loaded up on all the vegetables I could and avoided bananas and avocados. Yes, there are grocery stores in Ethiopia and I would stop in one every few weeks when I was in Bonga (the biggest town over from Chiri) or in Jimma (hub town about 3 hours away), but there are a lot less options. Walking into the grocery store in America was overwhelming to say the least. There is a whole aisle of different beers, five different kinds of milk, everywhere I turned I was presented with multiple options of the same thing. It was overwhelming!
- Air conditioning
Air conditioning comes in at #2. Again weird, I know. Air conditioning is not something that is found in my town. I was up in the mountain so it was cooler, but still there were many days in which I had to walk around with a sweater. It was either unbelievably hot or cold, there was no in between. I was used to the heat and escaping it as much as I could by staying in the shade during the hottest parts of the day. But in America everything is air conditioned. You go from a cold house, to a cold car, to a cold restaurant. It was freezing! I had to wear a jacket during fall in Delaware… I wonder how it will be like in the summer?
Next is driving. Not all that odd, but I hadn’t done it in a long time. The scariest part was getting into a car with a fear of not remembering which pedal was which, where turn signals were or even if it would come back so easily. (It did). The fastest I ever went in Ethiopia was in a mini van with about 22 other people and the driver kept swerving in and out at 80 mph. I know because I was in the front seat. The actual driving part of it was not at all difficult to fall back into, but I definitely didn’t have to worry about getting a speeding ticket. I am back to my old grandma driving skills.
Tipping wasn’t a thing in Ethiopia unless you left a birr or two for exceptional service. There is the price and that’s what you pay. Like in all other forms of work, people get paid for the service they do, not by the quality of that service. This is what I had gotten used to. So my friends in a few instances had to tell me, “Don’t forget to tip” and I was always curious whether I had tipped enough.
- How little water people drink
When I first arrived back in the United States, I would carry my water bottle around with me every where (I still do but I like to think less frequently). My second mom joked when I brought in my water bottle into a restaurant, and then asked for two glasses of water. I couldn’t get enough of drinking water! My water in Ethiopia sometimes consisted of rain water, water collected from a well, or filtered water, but still always tasted a bit funky. Imagine my surprise of coming back, and having water be accessible every where – from the faucet and even to water fountains! To this day, 6 months later, I can also handle milk and orange juice – everything else is too acidic and doesn’t taste as good as when I first left. Why do so many not drink plenty of water? I cringe when I see people reach for a soda or an energy drink – but to each their own! Bring on the water, please!