Observations from an American Abroad

The Funny Things the Travel Books Don’t Mention

Location: An American Abroad

Observations from an American Abroad (or things the travel books don’t mention). I’m very observant.  My husband ignores me for the most part because I’m always asking out-loud questions like – who the x%#&  is in charge of determining time zones?  Why are there no cats in South Africa?  Where is the mango gelato?  Very important stuff.  But as a full-time traveler, and an American abroad, certain observations stand out to me in this nomad life.  Some just don’t make sense – no matter how hard I try to understand.  For instance;

KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN – What the hell is up with KFC?  Everywhere we go, in every country,
Kentucky Fried Chicken is far more prominent than Starbucks or McDonalds.  Now I’ve had my share of “finger liken good” over the years.  Sure it’s good at a summer BBQ.  But as an American abroad I can’t comprehend why is it so popular around the world?  I totally believe there are far fewer Kentucky Fried Chicken stores in Kentucky than in Cape Town South Africa and most other big cities we’ve been to.  I don’t get it.

Which brings me to another iconic American brand – THE NEW YORK YANKEES.  Since we landed in Bangkok at the beginning of this odyssey I have
noticed and wondered about the phenomenon that is the NY Yankees baseball cap.  There are more NY caps outside of the USA than in it (well, I’m speculating, but I feel pretty confident based on my “scientific” research).  Absolutely everywhere we have traveled since day one I have seen people donning the cap.  At first I was like “well okay, maybe they are also Americans abroad.”  It didn’t take long though to realize these are not tourists.  That logo has some American symbolism for people around the world.  In fact, our tour guide in Namibia wore one.  I asked him if he was a fan.  He didn’t know anything about the team – he said he just thought the logo was cool.  And, I admit it, it is a cool logo – but there are lots of cool logos out there.  For me personally I like the Starbucks logo, NBC News, Nike and of course Washington State University.  Then there is the AMAZING City of Gig Harbor logo (a bit biased here). But still New York Yankees?  Just weird.

As weird as it is that the Yankees cap is a major fashion statement world-wide – it’s even weirder that there are only three countries IN THE WORLD who are not on the metric system: The United States, Myanmar and Liberia.  Yeah we are in good company – way-to-go-USA!  This American abroad says time to make the switch people, I mean really, how backward can we be?

More crazy backward stuff I’ve noticed includes the dozens of different electric outlet styles.  What a giant pain in the ass.  We carry with us many ADAPTORS adding several pounds (err….kilos) to our luggage.  And for some cray cray reason South Africa has its very own.  Just an entire special South African version.  I suppose it’s a little late, but wouldn’t some universal system have made life a lot easier for everyone – or at least for me? Call me demanding.

Since we are talking about differences in designs, it’s always a surprise wherever we go, to see WHAT KIND OF FLUSHER you’re going to get.  Some times it’s a push handle like in the USA.  Sometimes its on top of the tank and you push, or on top of the tank and you pull up.  Some times it gets wild and crazy and it’s on the wall behind the loo or even a chain above.  And then there is that hose sprayer you find often attached to the toilet.  I really try not to think about what that’s for.  (Oh well, at least most places HAVE flushers these days…)

And as long as we are on this bathroom topic – there will be DIARRHEA.  It happens.  End of rant.

BEETS are very popular in most countries and I like beets too. But don’t order beets cause no one will know what you are asking for. Around the world these bulbous beauties are known as beetroot.  Zucchini is courgette, eggplant is aubergine, cilantro is coriander and fries are chips.  Cake is pudding, cookies are digestives, and potato chips are crisps.

Sheets.  Yes I mean BED SHEETS.  It’s just really not a thing in most countries.  There is always a covering on the mattress (sometimes fitted, sometimes not) but there is very rarely a top sheet.  Rather just a duvet cover and 99% of the time it’s plain white.  I have really grown to like this because it gives you the ability to hang your legs off the edge of the bed during one of my numerous nighttime hot flashes.  No doubt a fab fifties woman came up with this way of making the bed.  If you want your bed to keep you swaddled and tucked in nice and cozy well stay home and hunker down.

Rarely do you pump your own gas, or have your fruit weighed by the checker (there is a person in the produce department whose  job it is to weigh your fruit), or FIND BEER in a grocery store.  Sometimes there is wine but no beer…why?  I do not know.  Hard alcohol usually comes from a bottle store but mixers from the grocery store.  It’s enough to make you stop drinking. Well, not really-just kidding.

Then there are the amazing PHARMACIES.  Everywhere we have traveled pharmacies play a very big role in health care.  Pharmacists have the ability to provide many remedies and drugs if you just tell them what your symptoms are.  No need to go to the doctor first.  Certainly there are some ailments that only a doctor can address, but for the most part a pharmacy is your first stop.  On the road for 13 months I have been to a pharmacy at least once in every country but I have not been to any doctors (except for the clinic in Namibia where I just took a long nap).  I wish it was easier in the USA but apparently it’s gonna get even harder now.

We have become acutely aware of the ECONOMIC DIVIDE in most countries and (again with our very “scientific” research) have confirmed that 25% of the people in Asia work feeding the other 75%, 25% of those who are actually employed in South Africa earn a living in the Security industry protecting the 1%, and in Tunisia and Morocco, 25% spend their days teaching the other 75% to drive.

As I travel to each new and interesting place it’s always like The Price is Right – you never know what’s behind Door #1, #2 and #3.  What surprises will each new country afford?  How many NY Yankee fans?  How many Kentucky Fried Chickens?  And for goodness sake will I have the right electrical adaptor?  I’ll just order a beetroot salad and pour a beer from the bottle store and keep my sense of humor.  It is after all the grandest of adventures!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Carla Wesson

    Be fun blog today, Laureen!

    December 30, 2017 at 5:27 pm
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