Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Almost One Year In (Part One): Things We Don't Miss

The Lady and I have been gone from the U.S.A. going on one year now, almost 11 months. We’ve spent the majority of our time (six months) in SE Asia in one Malaysian village: Juara, located on the east coast of Pulau Tioman. The rest of our time has been in various Indonesian states (Sumatra, Komodo and Flores, Bali, Maluku and Sulawesi), other Malaysian areas (most notably the state of Sarawak on Borneo) and a few days here and there in Singapore.

Living in Malaysia, and traveling through Indonesia, makes you realize aspects of American culture you don’t mind being done with. The list below comprises a variety of things I’m not getting nostalgic about here. Good riddance one could say. The next post will be a list of all the things we are pining for back in America, but to learn what we aren’t sad to leave behind take a gander below.

Living in Tucson you are privy to scenery like this, but also all the problems that goes along with  the locale. See the first entry below. In this photo the sunset is over the Santa Catalinas from Saguaro National Park (RMD). *** All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.
Petty Tucson Theft & Crime
Tucson was by far the most frustrating, and incredible, locale I’ve ever lived in. The crime there had a way of slapping you in the face and sobering you up to the reality that the Old Pueblo has got gigantic problems. Over the course of my four years there our house was broken into, my bike was stolen, Alli’s car was broken into numerous times (I’m still fuming over the bozos who stole a half empty box of Franzia and most of my Parliament/Funkadelic CD collection, leaving everything else), her tires were slashed and a guy who stole a cop car and shot at numerous police died in a police chase at our intersection. It’s sad, but if you live in Tucson, it’s just part of the package.

Numerous people jacked into this car while in Tucson. For real for real, who steals cases of burned CDs these days?
Toilet Paper
God bless the wet toilet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A squat toilet with an ass blaster (it’s a hose that shoots water out if you don’t get the comedy) can’t be topped. No more clumps of TP necessary. No cultural subject aroused more ire and hysteria at the turtle project than asking Westerners to give the hose a whirl. Most we’re not amused. * Not all thoughts expressed here represent Alli’s opinion.

Gimme that butt hose!
Knowing What Day of the Week It Is
We keep up with the date, but that’s about it. On Tioman we worked everyday so keeping track was trivial. Time was way more vital, especially when it came to patrolling beaches for nesting females and knowing when to expect those spastic hatchlings to rise up out the sand.

Using Debit Cards
It’s all Juvenile’s record label in this region, cash money. I rarely ever spent cash in the U.S. I think Tucson’s food truck scene accounted for most of my dollars, the rest got spent when I went to Bisbee and Sonoita. ATMs are prevalent, especially in cities, but everywhere you go wants that paper. Your money goes straight to the source; no bloated financial companies take any percentage.

Indonesian Rupiah, the smaller bills. For reference: roughly $10,000 Rp. is $1 USD. Check out Pattimura on the 1,000 note brandishing that machete! I think we've used a credit/debit card once the entire time we've been in that county.
Arizona Politics
Like missing cheese, this one is also self-explanatory. Every year it seemed the statehouse grew more wack: decreased environmental regulation; a toxic, allergic reaction to reforming tax revenues; a giddy, deranged enthusiasm to escalating tuition for higher education; circulating the idea to let people bring guns everywhere, including college campuses; demonizing Mexicans or anyone with brown skin, to name just a few. The Arizona legislature is a paranoid microcosm of post-Tea Party America, pushing the doctrine that government is an evil, rights devouring wolf, while privatized corporations are altruistic work-horses. It’ll be hard to dive back into this farce.

This is a completely selfish entry, but it’s not in the cultural cards to tip out here. It’s looked upon as peculiar and unnecessary. Tipping at a restaurant is something you don’t do, but it is appropriate for things such as scuba diving, when you have a solid guide (to go trekking, etc.), or a deft boat captain and versatile crew.

View of Bandaneira's harbor at sunset from our homestay's outdoor porch. We stayed in a room above a lady's house.
Impersonal Accommodation
A lot of the time here you’re staying at someone’s home or sharing their space (common area, kitchen, backyard, etc.) with them. This isn’t checking into a Motel 6, where the only interaction you might have with the front desk is when the non-dairy creamer runs out. In the Banda Islands, we stayed on the second floor of a lady’s house. We used the same kitchen and laundry machine she did. We see each other in the morning and she graciously brings us coffee and yummy bread with nutmeg jam on the side. She offered to go, and did, pick us up dinner when Alli was sick. We’ve done homestays in Sumatra, ate fried noodles for breakfast in Bali as the owner’s daughter did her homework and been woken up constantly by one persistent crying child in Flores. It’s incredibly refreshing and fun.
And she brought us homemade nutmeg jam from the nutmeg tree in the yard. Tasty stuff in the morning. The Banda Islands were once the most sought after islands in the world because they could grow sackloads of nutmeg. People went nutty for nutmeg back in the day. Now in the U.S. it just complements eggnog and rum very well.
Miracle Whip
Haven’t seen this monstrosity in this hemisphere yet. I hope it stays that way.

American Car Culture
Alli and I have been lucky enough to visit copious national parks, nature reserves, out-of-the-way locales, museums and more. We’ve done all this without a car. Buses are simple to use in Malaysia, but are everywhere, pulsing vibrantly in Indonesia. Sometimes with Celine Dion or T-Pain cranked up way too loud. You can get almost anywhere on a bus or the back of a motorcycle. It may take forever, you might have salt stains when you reach your destination, you might have to wait out the rain, but you’ll get there. Can you take a public bus to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge or Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona? No way.
Can't get to the places above (Saguaro National Park, RMD) or below (Aravaipa Canyon, Brandenberg Ranger Station) by reliable public transport in the U.S.

Not Having Afternoon Tea Time
I don’t get, or ever plan to be a fan of, various facets of British culture. I could care less about the royal family. I’ll never read about their world-renowned soccer teams on the sports page. I never got the appeal of the Streets, what type of rapping was that? But this whole tea time business in the afternoon, why yes, Alli and I will gladly bring that back across the pond with us. Who can argue with a delicious warm beverage, coupled with a snack, preferably fried and filled with fruit? I’m already at the end of my second cup as this blog comes to a close.  
Myself getting all kinds of awkward with a tray of tea and plate of pisang goreng (fried bananas). Also at Bandaneira.
Alli showing how it's done! Looking quite proper with her afternoon cup on Pulau Ai, another island  in the Bandas.

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