It’s been a busy week of settling in. Opening boxes, stashing contents. The most recent thing that we did, the best thing we’ve done, was hang our own pictures on the walls. Ah, that’s more like it. I’ve had more time to notice differences in this culture versus our own. Strangely enough, some of the things that are most difficult to adjust to or most challenging to figure out, are also some of the strengths. (Michael Scott: “My weaknesses are my strengths.”) It’s like personality traits.You know how sometimes the personality trait that you most appreciate in someone can also be the one thing that really drives you crazy? Apparently it’s the same with nations…
A few examples:
This is not a car culture. This means that it’s challenging to get places and even more difficult to procure things, like home gear of various types (outlet strips, a spice rack, rugs…). It means that you’re walking everywhere all the time, rain or shine, feeling lousy or feeling fine. Anything you need with you or happen to acquire must be physically transported every inch of the distance home by your unmechanized self. It can be tiring, confusing, and extra tough with kids in and out of the womb! But flip the coin and you have a quieter, simpler, and certainly healthier lifestyle. You’re out on the street seeing things from a different perspective, experiencing the weather (whatever it is) in a direct way. There are bicycles with baskets. Here, they’re not decorative. They’re basic. I love bicycles with baskets.
Many things seem so old. One is living a modern lifestyle rewired into the ruins of many older systems. Electricity, hot water, and public restrooms are not to be taken for granted. Ever. Yet the result is that everything is so picturesque. I will probably never look at an American university in quite the same way again. My husband is attending the university of Whitefield, Wycliffe, Wilberforce, and Wesley. Old is so cool, says me the history teacher.
Things are tiny. I get soaked every time I wash dishes in my mini-sink. Our beds are tiny, our stove and fridge seem miniature after the gargantuan appliances in most American homes (and spare ones in the garages)! When cooking I’ve been setting things on the trash can, the fridge top, and sometimes the floor to create space. It’s hard to fit even our reduced household into a flat without much storage. Where are we going to put the suitcases? Board games suddenly seem a little less important. (Alex would not agree with that assessment.) The other side of the coin is that we are learning a simpler, lighter lifestyle, not encumbered with stuff. Shopping, spending, and consuming won’t be a weekend hobby. (“Yes, dear, but where will we put it?”) All of this results in a less materialistic cultural persona. I hope it rubs off on us.