WEEK 22: Oh yeah, this.

IMG_0020America, it’s easy to love you in Kazakhstan—distance indeed makes the heart swell with fondness. You’re my home, my first love. You hold all of the things that define me, and all of the things against which I’ve defined myself…

But America—you crazy. You’re a contradictory, diverse, idealistic place, and there are several things about you that I just plain forgot (semi-forgot? selectively forgot?) while I’ve been away. Let us count the ways:

ONE: Seriously? I have to pay for that, too? In America, everything has a price. Free breakfast buffets and complimentary parking are things of the past. Unless toted as a “Perk!” “Benefit!” or “Cost Savings!”, be prepared to pay.

TWO: Ready-made foods. The time needed to make a home-made (gluten-free!) pizza was cut in half. But it left me wondering what exactly we were eating (“Wait, there’s sugar in this, too?”)…and if we could really still call it “home-made.”

THREE: Obesity. No doubt related to the above comment, obesity has undeniably reached epidemic proportions in the US. In fact, Sam and I could identify our fellow Americans during our layover in Amsterdam by their waddle. And, continuing the legacy: shortly after arriving in America, we stared as an enormous woman and her three huge companions fed a diaper-clad toddler Oreos in a gas station parking lot late at night.

FOUR: Rules. They give structure to our interactions and daily lives. (Just ask any American driving in Kazakhstan how life can be improved by rules.) But I had forgotten quite how may rules there are in America: Swim at your own risk. No skateboards or bicycles. No parking. No alcohol. No camping. As a bizarre example, there is a spot on the beach where you could literally draw a line in the sand that dictates where dogs are allowed and dogs are not allowed (between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.).

{Above: Please clean up after your dog, the last in a series of signs explaining exactly what is allowed (and not allowed) on the beach. I had forgotten quite how much Americans love their dogs, and quite how much they hate dog poop. Kazakhstan has these dispensers as well…I’ve just never seen any bags in them.}

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