August 21, 2012 · 12:36 am
We have been back in the U.S. for a few days. We’re still getting re-acclimatized but have noticed several things that struck as as relatively strange about America. Most of these are everyday things that we never thought about when we lived here but seem odd after 10 months of being away.
The strangest material thing has been Styrofoam. On our flight back from Rio to the U.S. we were served coffee in Styrofoam cups. We didn’t even notice it until Kayan started eating the Styrofoam. It struck us that we haven’t seen Styrofoam cups, or much Styrofoam at all, since we left. It turns out that many countries have banned it due to its negative health and environmental impact. Only on our flight back did we remember it had been part of our lives.
While we’re on the topic of coffee cups, let’s turn to coffee sizes. In Turkey and Greece, the coffee came in small dainty porcelain. Even in Brazil, the standard caffeine boost comes in the form of a cafezino, short and black, often with a wallop of sugar. Take-out coffee is not a common practice in most countries we visited, where food and drink are meant to be enjoyed at leisure and are excuses to break from commitments, not rush towards them.
Coffee cups aren’t the only large things in America. The size of cars has also been an adjustment. It’s no wonder. Gas prices in the U.S. are the lowest of any country we visited. Turkey has the dubious distinction of having one of the most expensive gas prices in the world, and we felt every Lira on our drive from Cappadocia to Istanbul.
Dealing with dollars also seemed strange. The only time we used dollar bills was in Myanmar, where they had to be in pristine condition in order to be traded for Burmese currency. We haven’t seen a wrinkled dollar in 10 months. We’re also getting back into the habit of using credit cards everywhere, even at the smallest of establishments. We spent so much time counting money at food stalls and in taxis that paying for a slice of pizza and a cab ride in New York a Visa made us feel as if we were skipping on the cost.
We have made a lot of effort trying to adapt to customs around the world. While we were told to keep our clothes on in certain places…
We were never advised on which side of the walkway to stand.
After 10 months of oscillating driving sides, this was a helpful reminder than Americans drive and stand on the right and pass on the left.
In a few weeks we’ll be paying for huge Styrofoam cups of coffee with credit cards, filling up our huge cars with cheap gas and hopefully driving on the appropriate side of the road. Until then, we’re still adjusting back to everyday America.
August 16, 2012 · 12:42 am
Over the past 10 months our family has been a very tight unit. Because we built bonds with new friends and met old ones and family along the way, we never felt homesick. However, on arriving in New York and being greeted by family we realize that, while home has been a portable concept for the four of us, we still had a lot of home to come back to here. Sitting down to a meal made by my mother, a cake lovingly selected by our aunt and having the kids swept up by a horde of eager arms were feelings that we realized we missed.
On November 1, 2011 we left New York City, determined to hit ten countries in ten months.
We succeeded in our mission and arrived back yesterday, somewhat changed. There are obvious differences. Our bags are dirtier and we no longer need to worry about pacifiers.
A globetrotting friend said that sometimes a journey needs to end in order for the reflections to begin. We hope that this is true. We know that this journey has changed each of us and adjusted the lens from which we see each other and our world. Over the next few weeks we’ll share reflections of our journey and explore the joys and challenges of settling back down again. After all, this trip was a minor diversion and getting back on track is part of the course.
August 14, 2012 · 8:43 pm
Today is our seven year anniversary. On August 14, 2005, hundreds (we don’t quite know the count…) of people traveled from all corners of the earth to celebrate our commitment to each other in Kerala. We got married in The Santa Cruz Basilica, a Portuguese church built in 1558. It was around that time that Portuguese explorer Pedro Alverez Cabral discovered Brazil (on his way to India via Cape Town, no less). After getting married in a Portuguese church we think it’s apt to be closing off seven years of marriage in a former Portuguese colony.
Given that we are both world wanderers since birth, we have chosen to celebrate each of our anniversaries with a trip. In 2006 we were set to mark one year in the Lake District of England for a friend’s wedding. I had to work so Sandeep went a few days ahead of me to support the groom. While he was gone I started losing sensation in my body. A neurologist told me I may have multiple sclerosis. Looking back I’m not sure if I was more disappointed at the thought of canceling the trip or scared of the prognosis. I called Sandeep in tears and he was on the next flight back in NYC. We ended up spending our first anniversary testing our vow to care for each other in sickness and in health. It wasn’t the Lake District, but somehow, in a sterile NYC clinic, our appreciation and love for each other inexplicably deepened.
In 2007 and 2008 we went to Maine. We drove to what seemed like the end of the earth, rented a cabin, ate lobsters and cut ourselves off from the world. We celebrated our fourth year in Portugal, where our love for the culture was solidified over copious amounts of port and dorado. The travel escapades continued at a castle in Salamanca, Spain in 2010. We’re not ones to think of such romantic destinations and were there to celebrate another friend’s wedding. It seems that a lot of people get married over the summer months because we marked our six year anniversary at another wedding in Toronto.
After the realization that I had a chronic disease, Sandeep and I reevaluated our lives. We decided to have kids sooner than we had originally planned, and our identity as parents has existed nearly as long as our identity as spouses. We wanted to focus on creating new experiences together as a family. The kids, as much as they perplex us, have made our journeys as a couple all the more meaningful.
We’ll be spending our seven year anniversary flying from Brazil back to NYC, ending the last international stop in our around the world journey. A Boeing 767 is not a romantic venue in the conventional sense, but for two souls bound by travel it’s perfect. This ten month journey has confirmed that we value each other and shared experiences more than we care about stuff. The things that accompanied us for 10 months are packed one for last time into two bags and ready to make their way back to their port of origin. We’re getting ready to start the next chapter of our lives. With each other as co-captains, and our two babies as in-flight entertainment, as it’s bound to be an adventure.