Sunday, October 4, 2009

What I Don't Miss in America

I miss a lot of things. Before I came here, I didn’t have a strong desire to sightsee all over America. But now I have a desire to see many things I haven’t—like LA, the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Coast around Oregon, Williamsburg, New Mexico and spend more time in San Francisco, New York, the Florida Keys and Colorado. I also miss milk shakes—here and in Georgia a milk shake is milk with ice and sugar.

But there are many things I don’t miss.

Most American Food

The fruits, vegetables, fresh yogurt and milk, freshly baked bread and cheese made on site are wonderful. Also, the cooking style is great—soups made daily, great mixtures of cooked vegetables and fresh salads and plates of fresh fruit for dessert. The baked goods are also delicious.

In February and March, there is little fruit and fresh vegetables are limited to root vegetables and herbs, but I can deal with that.

Driving and Having a Car

I don’t need one here. I can walk most places and there are always buses for short distances and trains if I need to go a long distance. I don’t miss the expense of a car, cleaning it, buying gas and insurance and wondering when it will break or need expensive repairs.

Paying for and Taking Care of a House

I’m like a kid again—mom and dad take care of paying the bills, fixing stuff and providing heat and meals. I give my host family a set amount every month and I live there, am served food and only have to buy fruit for myself. If something needs fixing, frankly it might not get fixed, but again, it is not my problem.

The Media

I didn’t have a TV for the last few years I lived in the US. I kept up on current events and still do by reading. If I wanted to watch a movie, I got it on Netflix and watched it on my computer. But I still heard a lot of people talking about TV shows like American Idol, The Bachelor and other shows I never watched. I don’t miss this.

Also, advertising is not as aggressive and pervasive and events and buildings are not normally sponsored by any company. No one send mail or email asking for charitable contributions and no one asks you to buy candy for their kid’s school. If there is no playground and the school windows are broken, parents don’t raise their own money.

The Split

In Azerbaijan, there is not a huge cultural split with people on both sides angry with each other. They depend on the government, or want to depend on the government, to get things done. The president appoints the mayors of the cities, has control of the Supreme Court and appoints other legislators so citizen involvement is not as necessary--once the president is elected, that takes care of a lot of things. No one is deckaring on the radio about how they hope the President fails, because it is illegal to criticize the President.

This sounds alarming to Americans, but in practice, it makes for very little rancor. I am not endorsing it, but people are not constantly angry about issues like guns, gays and God. It is difficult to explain how appealing it is to me, an outsider. not to be surrounded by partisan anger every day.

I have heard that Americans living abroad sometimes read the news and are surprised and bewildered at something going on in their country. They find that you have to be there to understand it.

Right now, I want to know why everyone seems to be so upset about the death of Michael Jackson. I thought he was being shunned because he was a child molester. Also, when I left last September, Michelle Obama had a low approval rating. Now she seems to be popular and people are excited about her clothes. So what has changed?

Also, I am really puzzled about why Republicans don’t love the mandatory health insurance proposal. They are supposedly for personal responsibility and everyone paying their own way. They love mandatory auto insurance, so why would it be okay for people to have no health insurance and show up at the hospital for free treatment?

I am not sure if I will work when I get back to the US. However, I have a medical condition that precludes me from buying insurance from a commercial insurance company—they won’t sell me a policy. I know others with the same issue. So why is it not okay with some Americans for me not to have an option to buy health insurance? Without that option, I would have to work to get employer paid medical insurance at a job that I would take away from someone who needs one or go without health insurance. I guess you have to be in America to understand these things.

Doing Paperwork

I don’t make enough money to file taxes, get no mail except boxes from home with cool stuff in them and don’t have to fill out expense reports, applications for anything or figure out my bank statements.

Unrelated Question

A few people in my town have a question for Americans. Maybe you can help me answer it. Husbands and wives in America sometimes say that they don't let their spouse do something--for example--they won't let their husband go to a football game on Thanksgiving or let him work part-time. Or a husband won't let his wife go to Las Vegas with her girlfriends.

In your circle of family and friends, what types of things won't they let their spouses do? You can email to me or comment on the blog. Thanks!