Monday, August 1, 2011

What Do I Miss the Most?

So everyone I meet here asks me if I still love it here or hate it yet. Still love it? Or hate it? Are those my options? Apparently most people experience a full year of cycling between love and hate before they settle on one. I have to admit that I do still really like it here. I definitely haven’t hit the “hate it” phase I hear so much about. I hope I don’t.

But it got me thinking. A dear friend back home asked me while chatting last week what I miss the most. That’s a tough question. I mean, if it had been WHO do I miss, I could have rattled off names of friends and family for hours. But she asked WHAT I miss. And my answer was this: Freedom – mostly freedom to be spontaneous.

When I lived in North Carolina I could pretty much do whatever I wanted on a moment’s notice. I could just grab my purse (or diaper bag), get in the car, and head out to the store, a friend’s house, a park, or pretty much anywhere. It didn’t take any planning or much thought. This place is totally different.

I have to plan everything. EVERYTHING.

Here are some of the things I have to think about before we do anything.

1. Weather. This one is always a thought. Because when it rains, it pours, and no raincoat or umbrella does the job of keeping us dry in a monsoon. We have to watch the sky, but the sky is pretty much always gray. I guess we rely more on hope than sight. We just go out hoping it won’t rain.

2. A ride. We don’t have a car. Even if we did have a car, we’d have to hire a driver because it’s terrifying to drive here as there are many unwritten rules about driving… like honking when you come to an intersection. And not slowing down. And I have no idea why they have red lights. Only a few follow them – probably foreigners like me. Anyway, we have to use a tuk tuk. And that usually means calling one of our favorite drivers because so many of them are awful. So, more planning. We call and ask for a ride.

3. Traffic. Yes, of course people in the US have to think about this. I know that. But here it is different. Like I said, we are riding in a tuk tuk, which is basically a trailer attached to a moped. So when cars and motorcycles are darting out of every direction toward our tuk tuk, it’s probably not a good time to go out. Busy times of day are best spent out of the roads. Here’s a video of our first tuk tuk ride. Not a great video but gives you a feel for traffic.

4. A list and map. Ok, now that we have checked the weather and called the driver, we have to have a plan. We have to pay this driver, and he will charge less if he’s not darting all over the city. So, using a map, I plan where we are going on a nice route. And I bring the map along because I have to tell the driver where to turn.

5. Money. Everything here is paid for in cash. So I have to carry cash always. But not TOO much cash in case it gets lost – or stolen. But enough cash that I can pay for everything. If I run out of money then my whole plan changes. And I have to always save enough to pay the driver at the end of the errands.

6. My purse. Also referred to as giant bag of everything. This has to be packed with diapers and wipes for the toddler who refuses to use the potty, extra toilet paper in case we need to use a public restroom (they almost never have paper), hand sanitizer, sunglasses, bug spray, sunscreen, a cell phone, and raincoats. This is obviously a very big bag.

7. Shoes. We have to plan for the trip. If we’ll be walking much we want good sneakers, but if we could be stepping over puddles left in potholes from the monsoons, we need sandals. I’m thankful I have a pair of great, supportive sandals. But the kids don’t. So we have to think about it.

8. The electricity. It’s expensive here. Really expensive. So we have to be sure to turn off all the lights and the air conditioner and even electronics most times when we leave the house. Not hard, but one more thing to think about. I usually give this job to the kids.

9. The return. The driver leaves us at the door to the apartment building and I have to make the trip to the elevator with the bags, the kids, and the giant purse. So, I can’t pick up too much in one day.

So yeah, it’s a bit different than the way things used to be. There is just so much to think about to make one little trip a success. I miss the good roads of the USA and drivers who [mostly] follow laws. I miss the closed in car that we could just sit in to avoid rainstorms. I miss debit cards and my little purse. I miss the GPS in my car. And the DVD player to entertain the kids. I miss the friends who’d show up at my house and give me a fun day that didn’t require planning or even leaving. I miss the McDonald’s playground. I miss so much.

But like I said at the beginning, I still love it here.

I definitely love it here.


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