Today we have Natalia from Army of Two. She is such an interesting person! I have a feeling that we would be friends in real life, if ever we met. She is about to embark upon a huge adventure and 2011 is going to be a big year for her. If you havent read about it, head on over to her blog now! I promise you'll thank me that you did.
As American as a Lint Screen and High-Speed Internet
When I moved to New Zealand in 2008, I had lots of expectations. I was so excited to be an ex-pat living in another country, experiencing a new culture and exploring the beautiful South Pacific. However, I definitely didn't expect to miss American life so much. But I did. A lot.
Hell, I would watch shows (on our huge, Soviet-era TV with 4 ft rabbit-ear antennas) that I would never watch back home (or at least admit to watching) just to hear the American accent, see American cities and landscapes, and laugh along to American humor. It was like going home without the cost of a plane ticket! Yeah, living in New Zealand is not as different as say, living in China or Kenya, but living so far from family, friend and a familiar way of life really teaches you to appreciate the little things and realize how good we have it here in the United States.
Take the clothes dryer for instance.
I didn't have one in New Zealand and it sucked. And I'm embarrassed that it sucked. Electricity is very expensive there so a lot of people save money by forgoing a dryer. We hung our laundry on clothes lines in the backyard and on two huge drying racks in the living room. This worked out great on warm, sunny days, but drying often took 3 days or more when it was cold and wet out, which was VERY often. On extremely sunny days you had to keep an eye on your clothes because the sun was so intense that it didn't take very long to sun-bleach colorful laundry. Life without a dryer led to lots of stretched out, un-wearable T-shirts from the washer's turbo spin cycle and without a dryer’s lint screen, I was a walking ball of lint. Where does all that stuff come from anyway?
Of course hanging clothes out to dry isn’t that bad. There are many worse things in life and I'm sure something like 80% of the world's population hang their clothes out to dry. I probably sound like a whiny spoiled brat. But not having a dryer really put American life and our choices into perspective and made me appreciate our way of life a whole lot more. You have no idea how excited I get what I clean out the dryer's lint screen.
Here are some other simple, daily things that I no longer take for granted:
Unlimited, high-speed internet access-In NZed you pay according to how much bandwidth you use, both downloading and uploading. If you go over your monthly limit, you are punished with dial-up speed. Say goodbye to podcasts, YouTube, Skype, Netflix and streaming radio. I think this actually might be a human rights violation.
Cheese-Unless you're Bill Gates or Oprah, cheese is a luxury. My choices were big bricks of Mild, Tasty, Edam, and Vintage. It was hard to contain my excitement.
A real good bagel-Oi
Pounds, Ounces, Gallons, Calories, Fahrenheits and Miles-Let's see, it's was often 14 degrees Celsius outside, I put 24 liters of petrol in the car, my ice cream bar contained 13025 kilojoules, I don't know how many kilograms I weighed, but I got to drive 100 kilometers an hour. Huh?
Hot water pressure-My pee has more pressure than my shower did in NZed. Sorry, probably TMI.
One faucet on the bathroom sink-You have no idea how amazing it is to have the hot and cold water come out of the same spigot together until you try to wash your face in New Zealand.
Mexican Food-I’m sorry, it’s just not Mexican food if broccoli or beets are involved.
That said, living in New Zealand was an incredible adventure. I traveled all over the South Island, saw some amazing animals, forests, beaches, rock formations, and rainbows, met some wonderful people, experienced new language, food, music, holidays and culture, lived outside my comfort zone and learned a lot about myself in the process. New Zealand truly is a spectacular country and I look forward to traveling there again someday.
Funnily enough, when I came back to the Good Ol' U.S. of A, I experienced reverse culture-shock and I was overwhelmed by all the choices and mass consumerism. Driving on an 8-lane highway (back on the right side of the road and left side of the car) and a trip to the grocery store was scary. The land of plenty had become the land of too much! But I quickly got used to it and settled in nicely with a new iPhone. I just try to be thankful everyday for our freedoms and way of life and support those who dedicate their lives to protecting them.
If you’re interested in reading more about my adventures in New Zealand, check out my New Zealand Blog.