In my last post I promised that this was coming, so now here it is.
Ten things I miss about the U.S.:
- Family. Since my parents have a habit of visiting Florida once every couple of months or so, going for half a year without seeing them has been different. I’m looking forward to seeing them again, as well as my grandmother and my good friends up north when I next travel to Michigan sometime this summer.
- Driving, American cars, and the freedom that comes with. You probably can’t really appreciate the importance of being able to choose your own destination, and thereby your own destiny, until it’s taken away from you. Because otherwise, really, you’re beholden to somebody else, whether it’s a family member, a roommate or the local bus driver, any time you need or want just about anything. Think about that the next time anyone wants to make it harder for you to choose your own method of transportation. Plus, I really miss seeing the kind of cars on the road that we have in the U.S. They’re far more…interesting.
- Western food. I like many different kinds of cuisine. But when you get right down to it, I have to give the nod to culinary creations from the western world as being my favorite. Exposure of this kind of food in southern Thailand is limited mostly to club sandwiches (seriously, almost every place has one), cream of mushroom soup and pizza. I recognize the health benefits of Asian food, but you know what? Right now, I can’t wait to get home and eat a burger.
- Internet technology. Thailand still has a little ways to go when it comes to Internet connectivity, and the seriousness with which said technology is taken by Americans. In the U.S. today, the Internet is on its way to becoming a full-fledged utility, like water and electricity. Surveys show that people are ready to drop cable TV like a hot potato in this economy, but not their Internet connection. Here in Thailand, when your Internet services flakes out — and it does often — the technicians at the ISP consider it with about as much importance as you would the complaints of a three-year-old who didn’t get as much ice cream as he wanted. I can’t tell you how good it’s going to feel to get back home and have web pages instantly appear and downloads complete in mere minutes instead of an hour.
- Peace and quiet. This is all a function of where you live, naturally. But I’m a big fan of serenity, and I’ll say one thing for our stodgy gated community in Florida: We get a lot of serenity there. Between our housemates, the all-night dogfights outside and the thumping music that went on until just before 3 a.m. this morning, urban Thailand is a whole different ballgame. When we get home it’s going to feel like we stepped into the Cone of Silence. Except that ours actually works. In fact, it may just be too quiet to sleep. That might be, ah, a problem.
- English-language media. It’s going to be refreshing to hear the English language spoken regularly again, on TV, in movies and by people around us. It’s been easy to fall into my own little world here when I can’t understand the conversation around me. Although I’m starting to pick out words now — at dinner tonight, for example, I knew when my brother-in-law ordered a guava juice and that he asked the waitress for the small size fried chicken and shaomai appetizers. Hey, it’s a start.
- Cooler temperatures. It gets hot and humid in Florida, sure. Not this hot and humid.
- Domestic travel. Apple and I want to go more places and see more things in the U.S. and Canada, while we’re able. Our first order of business will be to take a few days’ vacation on a beach somewhere on Florida’s east coast, where there’s nothing to do and not even any mobile phone signal to be had. Further down the road, I hear the Disney Vacation Club is building a resort on Oahu, Hawaii that should be done in 2011…
- Outdoor exercise. My workout sessions in Thailand are limited to an indoor exercise machine. I’ve been itching to get back on my bike and feel the wind on my face while I’m getting a workout at the same time. (But first, I need to take that goddamned broken hub protector off.)
- Online gaming. I want to get back to my legit Xbox and reliable Internet connection so my friends and I can play against each other online again. What with the ISP instability, it just got to be impossible here.
Ten things I’ll miss about Thailand:
- Family. It’s a foreign concept to an only child who was born to two only children, but Apple’s big, traditional Chinese-style family is like a big, warm, friendly unit, and it’s pretty cool. Sure, it’s also full of drama and craziness that can occasionally send Apple over the edge, but I’m sure she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
- Crazy freedom. “Sometimes I think there’s too much freedom here,” Apple sighed at one point during our stay in Thailand, which seems like an odd concept to a Libertarian. I can see what she means, though — sometimes the lack of laws, regulations or active oversight on just about anything makes it seem a little more like anarchy than monarchy. But in a way, it’s refreshing and freeing knowing that you don’t have to worry about getting sued if someone falls in a hole in the street outside your place of business, or that if you make a simple mistake, it’s not likely to cost you everything you have.
- Beautiful beaches. I speak particularly of Koh Samui, which is bar-none the most beautiful place I have ever been on this earth. But there are other great beaches all over Thailand, as well. If you like beach destinations, you couldn’t go wrong by coming here.
- Fresh fruit, natural ingredients, et al. Thailand is filled with exotic fruits like the Phuket pineapple (much tastier than the ones we get at home), Thai guava and mango — and that’s just for starters. Just about everything you eat was cooked with fresh ingredients, including fish that was caught the morning you ate it. Best of all, there’s been relatively little introduction of preservatives, pesticides or crap like the Great Satan itself, high fructose corn syrup, unlike back in the U.S. I mean, they still make soft drinks with sugar — and they taste great!
- Cheap stuff. Sometimes inexpensive merchandise costs what it does because it’s garbage that will fall apart on you three days after you get it home. But most of the stuff in Thailand is a bargain for someone making an American salary, yet the quality is excellent. Clothing is the best example; it’s the same damn stuff you buy off the rack for $60 at home, except it costs $3 here because the place where they make it is next door. Even the high-end stuff is affordable; we never went to the Fuji Japanese restaurant because everyone always warned us that it was way too expensive, but when we tried it, we found it to be a great value considering the quality of the food, and still cheaper than an equivalent meal in the U.S. All in your perspective, I guess.
- Working in a different time zone than everyone else. It’s quite freeing indeed when 99% of your coworkers are busy working while you’re asleep — and more importantly, while you’re busy working, they’re not available to interrupt you. It’s also much easier to set your own hours; I’ve been getting up at 10 a.m. and working until 7 in the evening these days. It just works for me. I supposedly have that freedom at home, too, but I know my boss prefers it if I match hours with his people at HQ, so I essentially live on Central Time. It’s a bit more grounding.
- Corporations that don’t suck. I don’t know whether American corporations just like to take advantage of people, or whether they need to because the American government is taking advantage of them. Either way, the consumer usually gets the shaft. Compare this to Thailand, where in many industries, there are still lots of perks to be had just for patronizing a particular business. Banks hand out free swag like it’s going out of style, families build up entire catalogs of free dishes and glasses just from sending in proofs of purchase to vendors, and mobile phone companies — get this — just sell you a SIM that you can put in any cutting-edge phone you want, no contract needed. Is that cool or what?
- Thai massage. I just finished having perhaps the best massage I’ve had yet. And at the cost of about $10 per hour, there’s no way you’re getting anything like this in the U.S. for a similar price.
- Medical care. If you’re a Thai national, you can get medical care for a couple of bucks if you’re willing to put up with a grungy ward and undesirable conditions, or a few hundred bucks if you want something better. You can take your child to the doctor as many times as you want, even if you just have a question — if the doctor finds nothing wrong, you pay nothing. When you go to the dentist, it doesn’t suck. I mean, it’s amazing.
- Simpler lifestyle. People here, by and large, live the kind of life I wistfully alluded to in my previous post. Most of them work hard, do their jobs, and spend their off hours with family and friends. There seems to be a lot less frenetic rushing around and inability to leave work at work, if you know what I mean. Family is still a very important concept in Asian culture, and one that we Americans should want to rediscover.
One more week to go.