Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Why Aren’t You Going…..Home??? Notes From a “Whiney” American

Why Aren’t You Going…..Home???
Notes From a “Whiney” American

As many of you may know, Lynn is back in the US for a quick one-week trip.   The major reason for the trip is to see Scott before he deploys to Iraq.   But she is also combining it with some preparation work for Shawn and Chrissy’s wedding in September.   (We will both be coming back for two weeks then.) 
Since Lynn is going back, I have gotten the question from several people “Why aren’t you going also?”  It is a fair question.  And, I do have an answer.   The first part of the answer is that Lynn and I had been discussing only her going home for a long time.  However, we did not know if Scott would have any time before he left.   As the XO (executive officer), he is the one responsible for all the paperwork, checking, and double-checking to be sure everything gets to Iraq.  While we were waiting for final clearance and information from Scott, Lynn and I had only been thinking that Lynn would be one going.   “It is a Mom-thing”, and I was OK with that.  Although I would have liked to see Scott, I did not have a strong need to do it, and Lynn did. 
However, as event finally unfolded (and all this happened in about 36 hours), Scott did have more time off than we thought, and Lynn could actually get almost two days with him.   As we worked though all the logistics, and checking flights (and having British air cancel all of the preliminary reservations because of a pending strike – so we had to start again), we kept our focus on getting Lynn there.  The day after we had made the reservation, we looked at each other, and asked “Did I want to go?”   I had really not thought about it!  Often in life, you have a goal or direction, and you get blinders on – just seeing that one thing.  You can miss everything else.  So… I had not thought about it.   Did I want to go? I was not sure.  But why not? 
The first reason was simple.  I still did not feel I had to see Scott.  We do get to see him often on Skype, and talk a lot.   The second reason was that I would be home in about two and a half months for the wedding.  The third reason was much more complex, confusing, and obscure. 
When we made the decision to accept the Peace Corps Invitation, we also decided we did not want to return to the states during the two year tour.   We had read that coming back to the states was hard because you would experience all the things you are missing.  And… then you  would have to go back to Bulgaria – and forget again all those things Americans take for granted.  It would be like Tantalus seeing what he wanted, and then turning away.  We did not want to do that.   However, that decision and strategy got changed shortly before we left when Shawn and Chrissy announced they were getting married.  (By the way – we are very glad to be coming home for that.)   But, I still had those feelings (or maybe fears) about going back to “cushy America”. 
You maybe asking yourself, “What is Mike talking about?  I have seen them say how happy they are in Bulgaria.  What is different now?   All of that is very true!!  Lynn and I are probably as happy here as we have ever been anywhere.  But we have adapted, accepted, and embraced our life here.  I have happily forgot most of the things I took for granted at home, and go about life here like most Bulgarians.   But – lest you think life here is a “cake-walk”, let me give you an idea of a few of the many things that I have conveniently “erased from my mind”.   Although this may seem like a list of “whiney” complaints, it is not!  Think of it as a way to better understand our life, and the Peace Corps experience.   Before I launch into the list, remember Lynn and I are very happy here, and I will say that again at the end of the list. 

A few things I miss from America

  1. My car – and the ability to go anywhere, anytime, without waiting for a bus.
  2. The comfy leather seats with lumbar back support in the car
  3. The six speaker sound system in the car that I can crank up full volume when the mood strikes me.
  4. The 3.2 liter engine that can tear down the interstate and make me think that “I am king of the world”. 
  5. The garage which is just 12 feet from the door to the warm house
  6. The garage door that goes up and down at the touch of a button
  7. Never getting wet going from the car to the house.
  8. My own “full-size American” bathroom.  Lynn and I share a 5 by 6 bath now.
  9. Heat in the bath room – especially in winter! (You have no idea how cold toilet seats can get.  Some volunteers had their seats crack and break this winter.)
  10. Taking showers for as long as you want!  The hot water will not run out. 
  11. A king size bed!
  12. A comfortable mattress that doesn’t make you stiff every morning
  13. An electric blanket to keep you warm – especially when you first get into bed in the winter.
  14. An ergonomic office chair.
  15.  Our home office.  (right now, every day I work at our kitchen table – until it is time to eat when I move my computer)
  16.  A large monitor to easily view – like the one at home
  17.  A comfortable lazy-boy chair.  (Now I use a chair like you have in a meeting room for eating, working, and most everything.)
  18. A view of the St.  Croix River out our bedroom window.
  19. Watching the bald eagles soar at eye-level off the bluff from the back yard.
  20. Biking the back roads of Wisconsin.
  21. Our cozy home in Wisconsin instead of the 420 sq feet apartment we have here.
  22. A Dairy Queen cone when ever I want it. (That may be why I weighted 20 pounds more at home.)
  23.  An “American-size” refrigerator stocked with cold food and drinks
  24. Several types of Wisconsin cheese instead of only one kind of white or yellow cheese.  
  25. Our doctors, dentists, good hospitals, and great health care just 5 minutes away.
  26. A government that functions efficiently (you should see how poorly things work here) without blatant “mafia control” of most everything. 

Well, I could probably keep going till I reach 100 on the list.  But I hope you get the idea.  Remember, LYNN AND I ARE VERY HAPPY HERE!  But that does not mean Bulgaria is a paradise, and our lives here are without small trials.  When you have been here for a short time, you begin to appreciate so much more what we have in America.  And most of the things you miss are what everyone takes for granted at home.  Possibly the most important thing to understand is that the vast majority of people on earth live like we are living now here in Bulgaria (or MUCH WORSE).  America really is unique and special.  And most Americans do not have a clue just how lucky they are to have been born American.  Unless you have experienced something like we are experiencing, I don’t believe any American can begin to understand “how good they have it”.    Recently, I found a short presentation which emphasizes this.  If you have read this far in the blog, please take a couple more minutes to view these few slides.  Global Village - Only 100 people on earth   
No matter how I feel today, I will be home for the wedding, - experiencing and remembering all the things I have conveniently forgot.  (And probably loving every minute of the "American Experience"!!)  I’ll see you all in late August.   


Anonymous said...

Great post, and I totally understand your comments re: not wanting to lose the mindset of where you're at. Kristen and I went through a similar process in moving to CA, and I also saw a lot of it in kids going to Tufts from different states/western MA. The kids who frequently travelled home were inevitably the ones who transferred out of Tufts by the end of freshman year. Constantly reflecting/reminding yourself what you've left behind prevents you from embracing the experience and enjoying the current situation you're in.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for helping remind us of what we are lucky enough to have closest to us. We often just move through life without taking the time to say Thank You, Lord. We're sure that Lynn is giving Scott enough attention for both of you, while they are together. Even with all that we've been through, we can't imagine sending Scott off to Iraq. Our prayers continue to be with all of you!
Estelle & Bill

Anonymous said...

Mike ,the francisican ideals and culture that you embraced as a young man in high school have surely prepared you for this journey . Francis' prayer for peace is so needed in this world , Lynn and you have embraced this prayer and are making a difference in lives of others , as francis would have done ! i look forward to following your amazing adventure in Bulgaria thru your blog. Dennis H

Anonymous said...


I just checked in for an update because I'm putting together a presentation about my visit for tomorrow. I really enjoyed your list. But ... wasn't there something about your car that you missed? (And crackers.)

I can only imagine Lynn back in the States shopping, carefully considering each item and how much she could fit in her suitcase for trip back to Bulgaria.

I think of you often. All the best,