I thought it might be fun to offer some levity during a time when conversations have been heavy, and share some potentially obnoxious habits I picked up abroad that my former self and perhaps you, gentle readers, would scoff at:
- Wearing Man Bracelets. In the last seven months I have picked up a wedding ring and an assortment of bracelets for my right wrist. Although each bracelet has a story (this one from a blessing in Nepal, this one from a ceremony in Cambodia, this turquoise piece was given to me by Candace after I had given an earlier one away, etc.), I never even wore a watch before this trip.
- Thinking and speaking in the metric system and Celsius. After months and months of kilometers and kph, measuring mountain heights in meters above sea level and bags in kilograms, beer bottle volumes in milliliters, I’ve begun to become a turncoat to American standards of measurement.
- Saying “Ciao”. Outside the US, “ciao” is a universal greeting for white people who speak some Germanic or Romance language. It’s a useful monosyllable and won’t betray your country of origin when travelling abroad (something Americans may find useful in the coming four years). However, I am sure we’ve all run into the caricature of an affected American using it liberally when trying to sound cultivated.
- Saying “Namaste”, placing my palms together and bowing slightly in greeting- and meaning it. Travelling through Nepal, there were few open and honest greetings more heartwarming than the quick ceremony of greeting with “Namaste”. Bowing in general has become automatic to us after so many months (and so many people to greet and things to say thanks for) traveling through Asia. Growing up in the Northeast, I thought this was the sole prerogative of pseudo-spiritual gronola-eating yoga teachers.
- Slurping soup dishes with a bowl-meets-face movement. Scarfing and slurping your way through a bowl of soup or dish in many places outside the US is often considered a compliment to the chef/hosts. Just about every one of my t-shirts from the trip has food and grease stains right below the collar where my chin would be.
- I want to haggle over the price of everything, with everyone. “What’s that? $7.90 for this chipotle burrito? I’ll give you $4.00 for it. No? OK, we’ll call it $4.75, but I swear some guy offered me a burrito just like this on the street for $3.50 like 5 minutes ago. Still no deal? I would really rather just give you the business, but…OK, fine, I was not that interested in it anyway, unless you, sir, as a clear decision maker would care to add free guacamole to the order? Fine! See me heading towards the door? That means I’m, like, seriously walking away from this potential sale, which I know you want to make. Whoa, no need for security, good day to you sir, just going to take my lunch business elsewhere.
- Seriously compromised (though formerly high) standards of hygiene. Shampoo? A decadent luxury for soft Westerners. Just give me a dip in the ocean every day and I’ll be fine. Do a load of laundry? Nah, I should be set for another few weeks with this pair of shorts, this bandana, a couple pairs of socks and I think I have a pair of undies (somewhere around here…).