I’ve been home for four days now (today is day five), and what can I say? I love this town. I have a lot to think about lately, but for now, I’m content with a relatively simple fresh-out-of-Ecuador existence. But going from an ex-pat in Ecuador to a “pat” in NYC requires some re-adjusting. As exciting and thrilling as it is to be back in New York, there are quite a few things that are still… well… weird about being home.
1. Street Chatter. Real conversations I have overheard on the streets of NYC this week: “Yeah, I didn’t get the part because they wanted someone more ‘ethnic’ looking. I mean, I’m half Puerto Rican, what do they want from me?” “I was talking with Victoria Beckham and she LOVES it…” “So they handed it to another editor and she thought it was great! I’m just going to go with that…” “I can’t go because it’s Shabbat…” Let’s just say it’s different from what I overheard on the streets of Quito.
2. Walking at Night. Tipsy off of a couple delicious out-of-the-box cocktails (involving rare rums or mint mixed with coconut) and a couple glasses of Prosecco, I stumbled home at around midnight (walking almost a mile at night) and I was never nervous, scared, uncomfortable, or threatened the entire time. AND, I didn’t see anyone publicly urinating! Ch-ch-ch-changes!
3. Flushing. No, I’m not talking about Queens. I’m talking about toilet paper: It flushes! After six months of having to throw paper in a garbage near the toilet, I’m excited and happy to have plumbing that can handle a little TP once in a while. (Oh come on, this is NOT TMI — it’s reality!)
4. Hot Water. I’m so used to dashing out of the shower exactly nine minutes in, when the hot water consistently disappeared in my apartment in Quito. But now, it doesn’t matter how long my hot shower goes — I could stay in there all day if I wanted! It just keeps pouring out, with no timeline, no limit, no problems. And, the pressure is amazing. Ahhh, America.
5. Tipping. I got quite used to not having to tip, and certainly not having to tip more than 10% unless some service blew my mind. So, the fact that I now have to tip about 20% every time I eat, practically regardless of service, is a bit horrifying. For one thing, I am unemployed. Not the financial welcome I was looking for. Then, let us not forget that a friendly TIP for a nice meal here is the equivalent to about a week’s worth of lunches/almuerzos in Quito. THIS is going to take getting used to.
6. Water. I can drink unlimited amounts of tap water and it is both FREE and SAFE! This is… awesome. I just have to ignore the article I read before I moved to Ecuador about all the traces of medications passed through urine that are present in our extremely clean NYC tap water. Yeah… Like I said, just ignoring that.
7. Good, Quick Service. In Ecuador, things are — oh… — a little more laid back, shall we say? And without the possibility of a good tip, people working in service jobs don’t have the same motivation to provide you with their undivided attention. Here, I have my water refilled before I’ve gotten halfway through it, I’m asked how my meal experience is before I’ve even dug my fork into my food, and the check is in my hands before I’ve swallowed my first bite. Sure, things may be a tiny bit “rushed” in NYC, but finally I’m back in a world that moves to the beat of MY drum.
8. Salad. I can eat it. It’s healthy and amazing and I missed it like crazy. Thank you universe for putting this simple green delight back in my life. Iceberg lettuce never tasted so delicious. I appreciate you (and un-peeled fruit) more than ever. Salad.
9. Credit and Debit Cards. I never realized how “American” having a credit card was until I lived in Ecuador. Credit cards, debit cards, these things are practically worthless in most parts of South America unless you are willing to constantly risk a trip to the ATM where, as we were taught in Ecuador, surely some thief would be lurking nearby waiting to clear your bank account and steal your card and/or identity. So yeah, we didn’t carry a credit card — ever — and surely you would avoid carrying a debit card if you didn’t absolutely NEED to.
10. Change. In Ecuador, you practically have to sell your soul to get someone to give you change for a $5 bill. No joke. Don’t even get me started on those $20 bills that come out of the ATMs! To put it nicely, you have to hoard $1 bills and coins, otherwise you are fucked. Here in the Big Apple, I could pay for a chai with a Benjamin if I wanted to. But let’s be honest: I don’t have any of those floating around these days.
So there you have it — 10 things that are still weird about being home. There are plenty more things that are “different” here, but the weirdest of them all is how NORMAL it feels. Even though it feels so normal and familiar to be back in good ol’ America, there is no doubt about it: I have never been so grateful for what IS normal and familiar. Now I see all that is the same with new eyes. So everything is just… better.