Being home for six months now, I find that many things have returned to “normal.” The shock of being back has worn off – even if the shock of -20 degree January days in North Dakota is fresh in my mind (and body!).
There are a few things, however, that linger:
1.) I still have a gut reaction to call the bathroom a “toilet” and refer to college as “university.” These aren’t wrong but I try to go back to my roots because, frankly, Midwest sensibility finds “toilet” gross and “university” pretentious. It’s not easy.
2.) I have a hard time suppressing the urge to raise my hand and flag down a server when I need something – or to ask anybody at all for the bill at the end of the meal. I don’t have time for such shenanigans as waiting for ONE SOLITARY person to help me! Why can’t table serving be a communal, no-frills thing here like it is in Hong Kong?
3.) Every single crumb or piece of debris on the floor or countertop in my kitchen makes me cringe and jerk away in horror… because I assume any dark shape on the floor is a roach. There are no roaches in North Dakota. It is far too cold here – even the roaches know better. I don’t even have to keep my food in plastic bins here! No roaches and no humidity – things keep for weeks in the pantry!
4.) I haven’t yet gotten over the cheap price of cheese. Every time I buy it (and I buy it every time) I am amazed.
5.) The variety of all food products. My local grocery store chocolate chip section is a 6 ft. tall by 8 ft. long monstrosity of options. Of just chocolate chips. Not kidding. And don’t even get me started on cereal and toilet paper. I am easily overwhelmed.
6.) Living in North Dakota I haven’t gotten over the lack of good Asian food options. The restaurants tone back the spice and increase the sodium to a degree that makes my heart pretty sad some days. Worse yet, my town doesn’t even HAVE an Indian food option, low-grade or not. Not a whiff of naan or dosa for miles…
7.) Bread is sweet. Like any store-bought bread – multi-grain, sourdough, flax seed – doesn’t matter. They are all demonstrably sweet. Hong Kong also had sweet bread – but it’s clearly labeled as such. Also, when I was there I swore that sweet bread was a “Hong Kong thing.” I had NO recollection of US bread being full of sugar. I was clearly mistaken.
8.) Aisles are HUGE. Carts are HUGE. Stores are built so families of 8 can comfortably tool around in their carts and get stuff done… and pass other families of 8 in aisles without bonking into one another. It’s incredible. I’m still totally not over it.
9.) I still think that getting places will take longer than it does. I factor in like 30 minutes to arrive… and show up 20 minutes early. This bodes well now that we are a family of 4. I stand the chance of arriving on time to things.
10.) NO BUBBLE TEA. Grand Forks, North Dakota – get your ACT together. I miss this so much. And the muted sweet flavor of all your desserts. I miss that so much too. Egg waffles, mango-sago-pomelo, baked egg custard and taro, egg tarts… ahhhhhh! Thankfully we have booked a flight to return for a two week visit in March to introduce our newest little one around the town and indulge all our eating whims.
I am so very thankful to be right where I am right now. It’s awesome (except the soul-crushing cold – that’s not even a little bit awesome). True, the ache lingers – and always will – but so it goes when you live a life that doesn’t anchor you in just one home. Some things stay a part of you forever, and I think that’s pretty fantastic.