The question I asked Casey as we moved into our second day in Singapore: “Is it bad that I don’t feel any reverse culture shock here?”
We only stayed two nights in Singapore, and it was nicely placed in our itinerary after a month-and-a-half in Africa and sandwiched between one week in Bangladesh and another in Vietnam. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about stopping in this country because it is so much like America – very modernized and developed. So I felt a bit like we were giving up our diehard-ness by reverting to a place so much like our own culture. Little did I know how much it would be needed?
Is it bad to feel a sigh of relief when we’re able to finally put toilet paper in the toilet, brush our teeth with water from the faucet again and eat a fresh vegetable salad with raw veggies and no taste of bleach? Or when we bask in the joy of lying in clean, stark white, soft, machine dried sheets on a plush comfy bed with exceptionally fast wireless internet? Hmmm.
I mean, this morning I accidentally got water in my mouth during my shower. I quickly started coughing and spitting it out with visions of explosive diarrhea already in my head, when it dawned on me “I can DRINK this water if I want to!” Sigh…
With almost three months on the road and away from the comforts of your own culture, there are some things that can certainly become weary on you. We live out of suitcases, pack our bags every two days on average, and are constantly approached by people asking us to buy something. We can’t remember our last good hot shower with full water pressure, and it seems like ages since we’ve both seen the other wearing something other than the 5 main outfits we’ve brought on this trip. If we’re really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that our guard is constantly up (incredibly high) with visions of everyone out to rip us off or take advantage of us because of the color of our skin or the country we are from (sadly, this comes from experience). Survival. Plain and simple. But thankfully, in Singapore we have been able to let our guards down a bit. And it was certainly needed. For three days, we haven’t had to psyche ourselves up to barter before walking into a store to purchase something we need – there are price-tags here, with lovely fixed prices!
It has been nice for us to be in a culture that is so near our own, and remember the things that we do appreciate about being American. Yes, that includes having lots of ‘things’ and the ability to purchase them when needed, enjoying immediate satisfaction quite often, and having access to top quality conveniences. But it also means things like knowing your transportation will come when it is scheduled to, being able to find (and everyone utilizing) a garbage can, finding a public restroom without having to carry toilet paper with you, or enjoying basic public health such as clean and drinkable water from the tap. I often think of being an American as a negative thing, because for those of you who don’t travel much, we don’t really have the best reputation out here (enough said – I won’t go into details on this subject as that is another blog in itself!), but we are incredibly blessed in so many ways.
Last night we walked into a pharmacy and hold back our excitement (and lower our voices) when we saw the words “Neutrogena” “Colgate” and “Band-Aid.” Oh the joy of those things familiar and the access to get it when you need it! Casey had to hold me back because I wanted to stock up on everything. “Don’t we need floss mi amor?” “or, how about some good face-wash?” Not only that, but we’ve had to wean ourselves from this strange hoarding mentality that we’ve slowly adopted over the past 3 months. I think we’re a little gun-shy about losing baggage again, and/or being stranded because we’ve experienced these things already. So whenever we get an extra napkin or food snack in an airplane, we quickly stash it in our bag (making sure no one is looking) with thoughts of using the napkin as emergency toilet paper and the mini-bag of peanuts as our lunch in the very near future. Some hotels we’ve stayed in are nice enough to have disposable shampoos and soaps, of which we also steal for future use, especially when they are quality brands. When we got to our hotel in Khulna Bangladesh we practically did a summersault when we were given complementary cotton buds, a.k.a. Q-tips! It’s a bit embarrassing but true.
We were finally in a place where we had access. Access to things that haven’t had in what seemed like so long. Things familiar. We let out a sigh of relief. We no longer needed to save up every little thing with feelings of depravation. Perhaps we’re falling back into our gluttonous American mind-set for these three short days? To that I say, “oh well”. We deserve a travel break. Singapore might be a bit over the top – they have the timeliness of subways and cleanliness of streets that makes the United States look pretty behind in the times – but it came at the perfect time for us.
The best giggle that an outsider might’ve overheard was when we were having lunch at a restaurant in downtown Singapore:
Casey says to Cara, “Baby, smell the napkins.” She puts it up to her face, taking in a long and deep inhale. Their eyes light up as they smile from ear to ear at each other: “Ahhh.” …and their minds escape to the smell of clean clothes back home.
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