Friday Five

Five Things I Didn’t Realize Would Be So Awesome About America

Clever Wordplay
Puns. Wit. Sarcasm. Emphasis. Double entendres. Adjectives. Where have you been for the last two years? It took a few weeks for me to get all of these as the flew past my ESL teacher senses, but now that I have I find myself giggling at random moments about things I heard that are tickling my brain. Or thinking of new ones on my run. Because that’s not creepy to see someone running on the road chuckling to themselves.

Calling People Out
Especially while utilizing said clever wordplay. And realizing that not only are my verbal capabilities coming back, but they’re able to correct another person’s. Unless I totally misread the situation and end up falling on my face, ‘breaking’ my own in an attempt to do so with someone else’s. Awkward.

Getting the Whole Picture
And being able to ask questions if maybe I don’t totally have it the first go around. I eventually stopped asking many questions in Thailand because I either wouldn’t get an actual answer or there would be a lot more to the situation than what I was being told. With a little thing called ‘being surrounded by native English speakers,’ I’m almost overwhelmed by the amount of information I get on a daily basis without putting in nearly the same amount of effort as with Thai. Half-awesome, half-TMI.

Nearby Friends
To visit most of my friends in Thailand, it required the scary task of walking out the front door, getting a ride 30 km away to the nearest town, and then however many more buses and hours of Thailand required before even seeing the face of that glorious one you spent all this time to get to… and all you wanted to do was lay down afterwards. Outside of my best friend living states away, it continually amazes me to throw spur of the moment plans together with new work friends and having a crazy thing called, a social life. Sometimes, I even go out after dark.

Going Out to Eat
I guess I sort of knew this was going to be amazing, but maybe not the depth of how spectacular it is to glance, go back over, read more in-depth the pages and pages of menu options waiting to be devoured. Seriously, everything I eat bursts onto my tongue with flavors I long missed in Thailand. Especially fruit and veggies with seasoning. Granny Smith apples and strawberries never have tasted so good.

Friday Five

Five Things I Learned in Peace Corps– And it’s more and more evident the more time I spend in the US in my post-PC life.

Being a Minority
Being a tall, white women doesn’t quite put me in the majority in the US, but it’s not like you’re putting a round peg in a square hole. In Asia, this round peg would never fit in. I never truly considered how difficult life can be to not be a part of the accepted image or norm of a society’s makeup. And it’s not like Thais were ever really that mean to me about it! When I think about the civil rights movement of the 1950s, the open hostility some still display for those not of the pre-accepted standard of what we should look like and how we live our lives, I feel like I’ve taken a bite from the knowledge and empathy tree and relate a whole hell of a lot better with them. And realize we are them just as they are us. Even if someone is a different skin color, sexual orientation, or intelligence level, we are all people and deserve the love and respect of one another.

Lucky
Seriously though. I know people joke about ‘first world problems’ and every person  deserves to feel what they want about their issues, but the times I would think about how incredibly lucky I was for being an American and having all these rights and hopes and possibilities for my life… I can’t even count. We have life in our bodies. A plethora of obscenely delicious foods to consume. And even, hot showers. I think we, as a country and a generation, need to put things in perspective a little bit and realize, we have it pretty fucking awesome. And that’s enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Life Is Really Unfair
This is one of those ‘real world’ lessons that our Moms always tell us, but you don’t fully realize until your most hardworking student still doesn’t do as well as her peers despite all her effort and desire to learn. Not to mention the five brothers and sisters she’s helping raise, get to school, and manage allowances for all of them. The most she expects from her life is to be the wife of a rice farmer. And then I think of all the people who don’t take advantage of all the advantages we have or abuse the system we have in place to give a hand up to those in need… the inequality of the situation is like a slap in the face. And never has that stung so much as it does after seeing it with my own two eyes.

Get Over It
We, as Americans, get really worked up about things. Road rage, cursing out Mother Nature (true story, someone went on a rampage the other day at work), bugs in your life, someone leaving the coffee filter full instead of dumping it out… these are not things that should not produce a very large reaction in someone. At least it didn’t in Thailand. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, all problems, big and small, will eventually work themselves out. I don’t know if it was the ridiculously relaxed atmosphere in Thailand or if it comes from seeing all kinds of Peace Corps projects/ideas being a complete and utter failure, but I’m finding it’s really unnecessary to get stressed out over things that will eventually be fine. So the next time you feel a wave of worry or stress or anything in that family, take a breath, realize you’re doing pretty great considering the circumstances, and take a leaf out of the Thai book and have a beer. Even if it is nine o’clock in the morning.

America Isn’t Perfect
In the dark, lonely ‘I’ve been cooped up by myself in the village for too long’ days, memories of America and the possibility of spending time there again in the future were like a shimmering mirage of paradise. I mean, do I need to write another paragraph of how great life is for us? But if living in another culture teaches you one thing above all others (outside of a renewed appreciation for your home) is that there is a different way to do things. Some things are better, some things are worse. And while this RPCV feels an immense joy every single day spent in the US of A, there is a lot of ugliness in this magnificent place. Maybe it’s changed or maybe it’s my eyes that have been forced opened after an experience like Peace Corps. I tend to lean towards the latter. Still, I love you America, for better or worse.

Friday Five

Five More Photos from April– I know, I know. Another Friday Five photo post, but given it’s the first Friday of the month, I thought I would do a few more photos from April. Next week I’ll get back on the writing train.

I couldn't help myself... it's American Street. How amazing is that?

I couldn’t help myself… it’s American Street. How amazing is that?

Another photo from Phipps

Another photo from Phipps

Tyler entertaining a class of third graders, most questions started like this: 'Excuse me Mr. Army-man'

Tyler entertaining a class of third graders, most questions started like this: ‘Excuse me Mr. Army-man…’ This was a good introduction back into how American kids are compared to Thais

My best friend's bachelorette bridal bonanza

My best friend’s bachelorette bridal bonanza… yes I am the tallest in the ENTIRE bridal party

Tyler thought it best to censor this baby's awkward nudity

Tyler thought it best to censor this baby’s awkward nudity… can’t say I disagree with him

Friday Five

Five Photos From Phipps Conservatory– Playing tourist in your own hometown is surprisingly amazing. Phipps Conservatory was never really my cup of tea, but after a day blowing around Oakland with my brother exploring our old stomping grounds at University of Pittsburgh, it was good to get out of the cold and winter gray-scape and into an explosion of color and life. A full post about Phipps is likely to follow sometime soon.

Looking directly up at one of Chihuly's pieces, it feels like a spider of beautiful flowery proportion is descending upon you.

Looking directly up at one of Chihuly’s pieces, it feels like a spider of beautiful flowery proportion is descending upon you.

I saw tons of orchids in Thailand, but an entire room dedicated to Philpps made me feel like I was in a flower wonderland.

I saw tons of orchids in Thailand, but an entire room dedicated to Philpps made me feel like I was in a flower wonderland.

This was my favorite room. With the statue in the background, tulips, and a rainbow of colors. Sigh.

This was my favorite room. With the statue in the background, a multitude of tulips sprinkled around, and a rainbow of colors of these kinds of flowers. Sigh.

One of the rooms modeled after the famous gardens in England. Just you know, warmer.

A room of a water garden.

A lily among... more lilies?

A lily among… more lilies?

Friday Five

Five Photos From Philly– Or rather from my trip to eastern Pennsylvania that  included Valley Forge, State College, King of Prussia, and the Flight 93 Memorial.

Valley Forge has a lot of statues of our military founding fathers, but I particularly like this one with the winter sun poking through the trees.

Valley Forge has a lot of statues of our military founding fathers, but I particularly liked this one with the winter sun poking through the trees.

Trying out the fisheye lens on this basement art gallery within Old City

Trying out the fish eye lens on this basement art gallery within Old City

Philadelphia is insanely bike friendly compared to Pittsburgh, so I couldn't help capturing that on this fence right outside of Christ Church

Philadelphia is insanely bike friendly compared to Pittsburgh, as so easily displayed on this fence outside of Christ Church

Inside of Redding Terminal Market is a spectacle of goodies for your taste buds

Inside of Reading Terminal Market is a spectacle of goodies for your taste buds

Some things left at the Flight 93 memorial that caught my eye and forced my brother and I to stop and remember

Some things left at the Flight 93 memorial that caught my eye and forced my brother and I to stop and remember

Friday Five

Five Photos From America– It’s not the first Friday of the month, but it is my first Friday Five post in America. So this is the first of probably a few visual representations of my first few weeks in the good ol’ U.S. of A. There will probably be more of these.

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The battle of Spring vs. Snow. In March.

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I missed America for urban views like this on the 36th floor of the Cathedral of Learning.

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I’m really grateful for the time I got to spend with my on leave big brother, this shot in Phipps Conservatory.

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Reflections, plant life, and more at Phipps Conservatory.

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My favorite jumping picture of myself ever. I have a cape of an American flag. I’m reaching for a national monument. Love it.

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Why yes, that is a chocolate covered chocolate chip cookie. It was more than delicious. Thank you Redding Terminal market for providing this little piece of heaven to me.