The quarterly volunteer newspaper came out and in it was a rather interesting article about being back in the western world. The author wrote about visiting Italy and simply noticing all the appalling behavior that it took us months to get in the habit of over here. Here, the manners are different, and if we didn't lose a few that Mom taught us, we wouldn't have gotten very far. Back home, it's going to be an uphill battle to remember them. After reading her article, which shows just a few breaches, I could definitely add more to the list, from what I noticed and what Kelly pointed out to me in Prague.
I her article, Amie noticed her atrocious table manners, which I share. I also hover over my plate now, shoveling it all in with a spoon like there will never be food again. Not to mention that sharing plates not only does not bother me, but I expect to eat from the same plate as others. I am also not as concerned about washing the dishes with soap as I once was. Given a choice, I'll do it, but I don't feel grossed out if someone just uses hot water. However, I will be highly offended if someone sets a drink in front of me instead of handing it to me or flips the bread upside down. Were they raised in a barn?
The second biggie was public transportation. In Uzbekistan, if you don't start pushing old ladies out of your way, you might as well walk because otherwise you'll never get anywhere. People are vicious (especially the old ones) and will use anything it takes to get in a bus, shuttle or metro car first. It took me two and a half months to start pushing people out of my way and unfortunately now, I'm a pro. In Prague, where people tend to wait in line, say please and thank you, etc., I was out of control. I didn't have to worry about being the Ugly American, because I was the Ugly Russian.
There are some manners that I think are better than the ones in America. Taking off your shoes before entering a house seems much more civilized to me. Since 70% of household dirt is tracked in from outside, it's also a cleaner habit. In addition, Uzbekistan could teach Americans a thing or two about being hospitable. I've never felt more welcome in anyone's house than I have here. Of course, the rub is that no one in America would want to invite me over anyway until I clean up my act a bit in other areas.
I went to this site today where I learned of an article about why French people are slimmer than Americans. The secret? They eat healthier foods and smaller portion sizes. Big surprise.
I heard from some people who had just come back from America that after a study came out about carbohydrates also making people fat, grocery stores came out with whole aisles of nothing but low-carb foods. When I left, it was whole aisles of low-fat food. For a people that pride themselves so much on honesty, Americans sure like to cheat when they can. They want their 3,000 calories a day and to stay fit too. Whenever I catch students (or teachers I work with) cheating or when I get hit up for bribes, I try to explain that in America, we always try to do the honest thing. Except when it comes to our Snackwells. In that case, we will do anything to keep our junk food.
Oh, three posts in two days... nice.
In the two years I've been here, I've read four real-life adventure books about average people who have done amazing, cool things. These books weren't "I was in a car accident and my dog saved me" type stories because that's not an adventure anyone has a choice in. These people chose to do something outrageous for some time. One woman worked in Antarctica for three months, another worked minimum-wage jobs to test the idea of a "living wage" out. The men hitchiked: one across America without money and one around Ireland with a fridge.
These stories are very inspiring. Before I came into the Peace Corps, and in the first few weeks I lived in Uzbekistan, I used to think I would be on this great adventure. Now it just seems like the same old thing every day. In the past, I have occasionally felt myself drowning in ennui. I wish that I could do something so exciting and unique. But then, could adventure be in the eye of the beholder? In the middle of their travels, didn't these people also think time and time again, "Why am I doing this?!?" I know I do. In that case, what does this say for people in general? If even adventurers don't feel like what they're doing is compelling while they're doing it, could everyone be on an adventure and just not know it?