We've been back in the States for a few weeks now, and you would think that any "culture shock" moments would be limited to our children, who have never really been here before. Alas, it's not true--John and I have had some moments too! For your enjoyment...
**Upon arriving in the US and landing in the Chicago airport, we needed to go through customs. There were two lines: Resident and Visitor. This gave us serious pause. What are we? John was convinced we were visitors, since we normally live in China but are visiting the US. I was convinced that we were Residents, since we hold US passports. True, we don't "live" here in a strict sense, but we have an address and can even vote in elections. It didn't help that we overheard a customs agent talking with a lady in front of us and when she wasn't sure which line to get in, he asked her where she usually sleeps. We didn't hear her answer but were even more confused. We ended up getting in the Residents line and got through, no problem. But it was confusing! It would have been more clear to give the line titles "US passport holders" and "Passport holders of other nations." Of course, they're not asking for my advice!
**Clara Anne has been the funniest one to watch in terms of reverse culture shock. She is the most aware and the most articulate. At our week-long meeting in Virginia, we were walking to breakfast one morning and she suddenly stopped stock still. "LOOK, Mommy," she said, pointing, "A REAL squirrel!" This apparently made her day. Perhaps it really was the first time she saw a squirrel? We do miss out on wildlife living where we do, in the urban jungle.
**We've been delighting in the blueness of the sky, the beauty of the clouds, and just soaking up all of the natural beauty around us. In our first week back, while we were still in Iowa, Clara Anne exclaimed one day, "Mommy, the sky really IS blue!" We just don't see it very often, it's usually white with pollution/smog where we live!
**My girls all have loved eating breakfast cereal since we've been back. Honey Nut Cheerios, Corn Flakes, even Grape Nuts have been eaten with great delight. But their favorite has to be Froot Loops. They've hardly had cereal in their lives and now to have multiple options (like at our meeting in Virginia where there were probably 15 different cereals to choose from) just seems like a dream come true. Chloe spoke for them all when she said, "Mommy, this is the BEST cereal I've ever tasted!"
**I had forgotten a bit what a fast-paced society America is. It's amazing to us to be able to accomplish so much in each day (i.e. shopping, driving, eating, DRIVE-THRUs!), it's all efficient.
**Yikes, FOOD has been a bit of a reverse culture shock. The restaurant portions are gigantic! We are slowly figuring out that all three of our kids can share one kids meal and John and I can share a meal, with everyone feeling satisfied at the end. And it's cheap! We're so used to paying extra for western food but we've been surprised several times at finding very reasonable prices for pretty good food. My girls already love Cracker Barrel! They love the peg game at the table as well as the kids menu with things to color. And, breakfast is served all day so they can eat pancakes even if it's 5pm!
**Also along the food line, we've already stopped at tons of McDonald's on our way, and been pretty impressed with how they've remade their image into more of a cafe style place. On one of our first road trips, we couldn't find a starbucks so stopped for coffee (for me) at McDonald's and were amazed to find the interior with leather armchairs, a flatscreen tv playing fox news, and a beautiful brick fireplace. We've done lots of Mcdonald's stops just for the playplaces, which are huge and FUN! Many have also had outdoor seating near the playplace which is just perfect. Usually it's not crowded and the restrooms are fairly clean, always with a baby changing area as well. That's a blessing! On our trip from Iowa to Louisville a few weeks ago, we stopped at four McD's along the way, once for coffee, once to clean up a child who had just thrown up, after lunch to play at the playplace, and finally by the time we were ready for supper there wasn't much else around, so we finally stopped at one to eat there. Crazy times! They are truly ubiquitous.
**Still getting used to the car seat thing. It takes me several minutes to get everyone buckled in or out! The girls are doing fine though and have not complained about having to sit in their "special seats."
**John had a little trouble figuring out how to "prepay" at gas stations when you just want to fill up the tank, but most places require prepayment. How can you prepay if you don't know how much it will be? At one point he even drove on, looking for a different station that didn't require it because he wasn't sure how to make it work. I think he's got it figured out now though. :) (I have no idea since I am never the one to get the gas!)
**We've already taken a few wrong turns, mostly due to not having specific maps. We discovered when trying to navigate the Raleigh/Durham area that our atlas was printed in 2001. Oops. We did eventually find our way through that tangle of highways/freeways and are mostly traveling on more "known to us" routes the rest of our trip. We'll see! Keep pr for safety on the roads, we've done about 2500 miles and have about 4000 to go!
Thanks to the generous hospitality of the New Prospect folks, we're enjoying a stay at a Hampton Inn near Laurens, SC. That Southern hospitality is famous for a reason! We are looking forward to sharing with their body tonight (after a potluck) and then will hit the road again tomorrow morning and drive back to Louisville, where we'll stay for 9 days and actually unpack our bags for a bit!
And by the way, the picture at the top is from one of those Mickey D's playplaces. Any playground or park is now a "playplace" in my children's vocabulary!