Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Accoutrements of Home

I am back home in Arkansas on my second R&R. I could have gone to some new exotic place, but honestly, I just need to recharge my batteries, and home's a comfortable place to do so. It's always funny coming home after a long time away, because I forget about little things that I take for granted in the US. Diced tomatoes in a can, shaving cream that doesn't make me smell like a man, certain cuts of meat, canned Cokes that have regular pop-tops, not pull tabs - all things that I can't easily acquire in Saudi Arabia. There are many other things, of course, that I can't get there (draft beer, unexpired beer in a bottle, pork chops), but I've come to terms with those. I just miss the little things that one doesn't think to miss.

I had a small revelation as I was flying in to Memphis on Monday night. I'd spent 25 hours in planes and airports across three continents with no sleep, and I was justifiably a little out of it. We approached the city from the west, and we flew right over my hometown. I crowded to the window, looking for buildings and places I knew, and as we came across downtown Memphis, I realized... wow, this is a very small city. I knew I didn't exactly live in a bustling megalopolis, but it really hit me just how small Memphis is. That's something I didn't truly appreciate until I'd flown into Shanghai (18 million people) or Chicago (nearly 10 million) or even Riyadh (6 million). We travel to learn about ourselves as well as the new places we see, and I learned Monday in a way that I didn't quite understand before that I've outgrown Memphis. It will always be home, and I love coming back home, but I don't know that I can ever live here again. I'm too used to big cities now.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Duly Noted

I learned yesterday that, if you are allowing a socialite friend to plan your schedule, when you go to work do not leave your abaya at his house thirty miles away, as he will plan three events immediately after work.

Yesterday I walked around one of Jeddah's biggest markets, went to a restaurant, and attended the Ethiopian National Day celebration all while wearing a skirt suit. Jeddah hasn't seen that much leg (the skirt fell just below my knees) in decades, I'm sure. At least I was popular with the Ethiopian diplomats...