(note: I’m cleaning some draft posts and found this. I never published it and I’m not sure why…so here it is – a glimpse into my early post-trip adjustment)
Well, I’m back in the states. I don’t know how many of you will read this now but I thought I’d post an update.
The flight from Madrid to Newark was 9 long hours — long daytime flights are the worst! My plane was full of people from Madrid who were traveling with me to Houston, then on to various points south. There was a whole group going to Buenos Aires, which is another 8 hour flight! I slept a little bit and chatted with my seatmate some. He is from Madrid and moving to St Louis for work. Poor guy will be in for quite a shock, although he seemed aware of the challenges a midwestern lifestyle would present. He is already prepared to drive and wanted to know if he could buy a car for $3000! Anyway, after a layover in Newark, I flew 4 more hours to Houston, then another hour to Corpus Christi. Customs and immigration were easy, I had no baggage issues and my flight delays were all very minor, so overall my travel was as good as can be expected for 18 hour trip.
Getting off the plane in Newark wasn’t much of a shock, as all kinds of travelers were moving through there. But when I hit Houston, the difference was immediately obvious. Everyone – everyone – was on their phone, talking loud and long. Europeans certainly use their phones but not like we do here in Texas. Hell, most of the country doesn’t use their phones like we do! Of course there were hats and boots everywhere – and the Cowboys vs Greenbay game was on – and I was happy to see all that. I saw BBQ and Mexican restaurants – I liked that too. But honestly, I was really surprised how all the Americans appeared to me after just a few months gone.
We are BIG people. I don’t mean just fat, although we are that too. But we are big – we have a big presence and we take up (over?) space. We are loud and we are obvious. I didn’t run into many groups of Americans abroad, so I never really noticed it. But after seeing mostly small, quiet Europeans for 3 months, I totally saw what people mean about Americans. Australians are the same way, by the way – big, loud and obvious. But happy – we are both a happy, optimistic people and I think that is awesome.
Anyway, we are physically bigger people. I’ve complained before about the troubles I had finding clothes to fit my chest and shoulders. And yes we are also fat. I swear to those of you who have never traveled outside the US – people are not fat. I saw one – ONE – truly obese person in Spain and I took her picture. Cruel? Maybe but she was the only one around. In Cordoba, I saw a sob-story segment on the local news about a woman who weighed…are you ready…200 kilos. That’s 450 pounds. Her kids were talking about all the stuff she couldn’t do (get in the tiny euro shower) but the woman still walked up the stairs to her flat (huffing the whole way). Her size is virtually unheard of there but she has a metabolic disorder. Interesting how few Europeans have them, by the way…I’m pretty sure our food supply is responsible for this.
And why are we fat? Because we eat too much. The portion size is striking to me. Eduardo, my seat mate from Madrid, ended up going to McDonalds for their most basic burger because everything else looked too big to him.
I went to Walmart the other day because my parents computer has no virus protection and its the only place I know of to buy software in town. As I sat in the car (on my cell phone!!!) I was barraged with BIG – big trucks, big asses and a big store. I swear I spent 2 hours buying 11 items for a grand total of $60.98. I’m reading a book now called The Paradox of Choice and it is about precisely this. We have too many choices and they are limiting us, not freeing us.
And while I’m on my soap box, I would just like to say that while yes, I was able to buy software, wine, hot sauce, organic waffles, white rice, tampons and a broom set all in one store, I feel certain that I would have been able to buy all those things within a 2 block radius in any city in Europe. True they would be at 5-6 different stores but since Walmart is about 2 blocks big, what the hell is the difference?!
OK, obviously I’m still adjusting. Overall, I am happy to be back in the US, so don’t take my bashing as anything other than constructive criticism 😉 I think we could learn a few things from the way Europeans shop, eat and use transportation. And I think they could learn a few things from us about customer service and efficiency.
Sooooo, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m house-and-cat-sitting for my parents in Rockport, Texas. It’s a nice enough town on the coast. The weather is gorgeous right now – high 60’s and sunny during the day. If I fished, it would be an even better place. But I don’t, although maybe I should take it up.
I’m surfing on my parents dial-up connection, surfing jobs and vehicles and places to live. My tenant will be staying in the house for now – he is happy and cares for the house. Without a job or plan it seemed silly for me to move back in that big house alone.
As for a vehicle – I really didn’t want to get one. I didn’t miss a car and got along just fine without one while traveling. In fact, the one time I rented a car, it was a constant worry with parking and theft. But alas, Texas is not Spain and moving around anywhere but central Austin will be tough without wheels. To get from Rockport to Austin on public transport, my only option is bus. Although it is only 180 miles and 3.5 hours by car, the bus takes 19 hours, going through Corpus & San Antonio, and costs almost $40. So I am renting a car next week. But having to buy their insurance means it is very expensive. So I need something. I want a very very cheap car that doesn’t need much initial work. If you know of anyone selling, please let me know! I don’t care about the specs (and I drive standard) since it will be a temporary vehicle. I’m also considering joining Car Share (www.austincarshare.org) and/or getting a scooter and just renting a car when I need to go to Rockport.