This is my last few weeks in America, so thought it was a good time to reflect on some of the things I will possibly miss a bit and those things I will be Happy to be rid of. First let’s get the negatives out of the way;
Political Correctness- I grew up in the original hey-day of political correctness, and it was as painful then as it is now. Sometime recently the pendulum has shifted back to this crap and everyone is offended all the time. It’s simply obnoxious watching a bunch of first world people bitch about their lot in life. New terms like body shaming, fat shaming, micro aggressions, trigger warnings and much more reminded me of why I left college the first time. Being offended is a choice people. Grow the fuck up and move on.
PC Principle Makes Sure Kids Check Their Privlage
People in Asia also get offended of course, in fact they can be exceptionally thin skinned about a number of issues, but they are not politically correct. In fact there have been plenty of moments where I was the one blushing and slightly embarrassed at what someone was saying in my company. That said, I will take a world where people are unafraid to speak their minds, even if they are in possession uninformed and bigoted opinions, then a world of self censorship and feigned moral righteousness any day of the week.
Politics- American Politics has become abhorrent, and I am exceptionally glad to be out of the country for the upcoming election year. We have a two party system that minimizes the choices we have and the primary process is terribly corrupt. Not a single person running for president should become president and more than half of them should probably be in jail. No more Clintons or Bushes should ever hold public office ever again and Donald Trump is a clown. It’s pathetic and it’s a horribly sad statement about how much of a sham the election process has become.
From what I do know of Cambodian politics it appears to be complete sham as well. But at least Asian countries don’t even really try and pretend they are a Democratic Republic. I think the next election is about three years out, and I doubt that when it does come around there will be quite the same outpouring of campaign advertising and “news” that we have to endure in the US. Good riddance.
Daylight Savings Time- We are setting the clocks back this weekend, and ending DST. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Is anyone excited about the sun going down an hour earlier? Probably not. Why we try and adjust time itself to the natural ebb and flow of the seasons and not adjust ourselves around these factors is something I’ve never understood. Generally I also just hate getting up before the sun and then working until after it’s dark. Winter in the northern hemisphere is just miserable for so many reasons.
All of South East Asia gives all this stupidity a pass. It also keeps a rather even keel year round with regards to when the sun rises and sets. Being closer to the equator it will be a near even split of sunlight and evening. Skype and flights still have to account for the rest of the world engaging in this foolishness, but at least I don’t personally have to deal with it. This sounds like a small petty thing, but there was barely a more motivating factor to me wanting to stay in the third world than the West's unwillingness to fluctuate behavior based on environment. Seasons are different, our bodies react to them differently and we should behave differently to compensate for this. Changing the time on the clock isn't the solution.
Predictability- Every day here you have a rather good idea about what is going to happen. Occasionally you may be surprised, but generally not so much. The well organized societies function like clockwork- they are safe and predictable. Some people really like this, it offers a sense of control and security. I find it mind numbingly boring. I like a little chaos, a little unpredictability, and working on the fly reacting to situations as they develop without really knowing where they will lead. That’s daily life in places like Nepal and Cambodia and I think I miss that more than anything else.
Shit Weather- Now during most of the months I’ve been in New England, the weather has actually been great, but I know what’s around the corner. Winter. Cold, shitty, freezing winters. Last year there was so much snow in New England that people were literally tunneling to work. No thanks! Although we only have one word for snow anyone that lives up this way knows it comes in a plethora of varieties from that freezing pelting stuff to that light dusty powder and about thirty varieties in between. What does it all have in common? It sucks. Yes you can ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or even sled in it and I’ll be the first to admit that these activities can be fun. That fun is negated for me by the sheer ratio of time spent living in the same bitterly cold temperatures and shoveling or driving in snow.
This is sacrilege coming out of the mouth of a New Englander, especially a Mainer, but I’ve been too far afield for too long. A friend of mine noted that it is “just weather”. Well sure it is. I mean hanging out in the arctic in winter is just weather too. For me it’s the same as living in a place where some old guy comes around a couple times a year knocks on your door and when you open it just kicks you square in the nuts. You can call me a pussy for not wanting to live in a place where I won’t get kicked in the nuts, but I’m content to live in a place where that old bastard just doesn’t show up at my door. I’ll admire your toughness via Facebook. Sipping rum. On a balcony. Without a coat.
Now five things that I’m going to miss about the good ol US of A
Things Work- Last time I was in the third world I had gotten into the habit of assuming that nothing would ever work. I often had contingency plans for my contingency plans and still it was almost impossible to predict how a system would break down or fail. In the US you expect everything to work, to the point that people become indignant if they don’t. People show up early or on time, things you purchase work as advertised, infrastructure is reliable and services you hire people for generally get done as promised. While there are certainly exceptions they are just that- in parts of Asia I would say the exceptions are the rule.
Some days you just don’t want the headache and when you need something done, it’s nice to know that with minimal planning you can generally just do whatever it is you need to do. I suspect there will be more than a few instances in my not so distant future where I will be sorely missing this about the US.
Lack of Corruption- At the national level we are horribly corrupt, and I do fear that there has been a bit of a trickledown effect. That said I can think of nothing that the average person here holds in more contempt than public corruption. The result of this is that in our daily lives we very rarely encounter too much corruption. For all the problems we do have with an overly militarized police force, they are generally made up of decent men and woman who won’t ask you for bribes every time you interact with them. I like knowing that if I need to go to city hall for a certificate I’m going to pay a single fee that is the same fee that everyone else pays.
Now I haven’t spent much time in Cambodia, but it sounds like it operates closer to Nepal than the US when it comes to the common practice of paying off anything that involves government procedure. Greasing palms to get government documents to move has never been a practice I was comfortable with and I suspect never really will be. I’ve spent months of wasted time dealing with procedures simply for refusing to convert to the way things are done over there. Luckily I hope to minimize this type of interaction, as I won’t be trying to run a business over there and the visa process is far simpler.
Anything You Want at Any Time- If you are willing to pay for it you can get just about any goods or services you want at almost any time in the US. You want sushi at 2am. No problem. Want to order a aviator sunglasses with an American flag across the lenses- it can be delivered the next morning. Want grapes in winter or oranges in Autumn? Seasons affect more the price and freshness of fruits and vegetables but not their availability. In the US you never think of if you can get something or not, it’s much more of if you can be bothered to possibly shell out the money for it.
Unlike some other western countries we also operate in a much more around the clock manner. One of the things that seemed just foolish in the UK was how everything just shut down for Sunday. Cambodia will be another whole ball of wax though, and I suspect that many things just won’t be as available as one might like. Can you get Amazon deliveries there? Maybe. While cheeses might be available at some higher end markets I doubt there is a massive selection and am even more dubious as to what to expect for quality. Clothing in Asia generally doesn’t fit well and things like shoes tend to either be terribly overpriced or cheap imitations that fall apart quickly and fit funny. I’ve already bought deodorant, stuff is hard to come by over there.
It Probably Isn’t going to Kill You- Now I have plenty of gripes about the insurance system in the US- it’s abysmal, but if something happens and death can be averted it most likely will be. People don’t generally die over her until we’ve hit the bounds of medical science. This is however not quite the case in some parts of the world. I was reminded when getting travel vaccinations that there are a number of tropical diseases like Dengue fever and Malaria in places like Cambodia that I also just don’t have to deal with here. More concerning is how things like a burst appendix or a gash from an accident that would normally be just a painful easily resolved issue in the US can be deadly in countries with a very poor medical infrastructure. While I don’t mind living a little on the edge, I’d also rather not die from a simple infection.
Clean, Clean Everything- Arriving back in the US it was nice to have unpolluted fresh air. There isn’t trash everywhere and garbage is picked up in an orderly manner. Restaurant kitchens generally look like places that have been cleaned in the last year and you can go swimming without bumping into floating soda bottles. Running and jogging in fresh air is especially nice. It’s also nice to go past rivers and streams and not have to hold your nose. I think Cambodia lacks the industrial pollution that Nepal has to put up with drifting up from the Ganges basin, but as a country with a dry season I know there will be lots of dust. I don’t miss the dust, and I will miss the clean air and water here.
As an honorable mention I should probably mention American Football. It's the only sport I find interesting to watch and it's difficult to watch with foreigners because they have no clue what they're watching. Then you have to listen to some half drunk Scotsman go on about how there's no action because of all the starting and stopping. Usually you just have to bite your tongue and shake your head at these simpletons that equate motion and exciting action. I've watched more than enough soccer matches where people were moving the whole time but there were only about three moments in the entire game where something might actually happen and anticipation ran high (and usually the shot on goal is missed anyway and the score remains something thrilling like 1-1). I'll take a violent game of chess where more happens before anyone starts moving than in an entire soccer match, thanks.
I'll still be watching football over there though, so I won't miss it too much.