I’m stretching my comfort zone and let’s just say it isn’t too comfortable stretching one’s zone. It’s always easy and pleasurable to stretch your comfort zone up (say, moving from an apartment to a house, upgrading a vehicle or a promotion at work) but moving it sideways or down takes a little effort, time and struggle. It would be suffice to say I am being challenged in anyway but up. Right about now I’d like to simply momentarily still the comfort zone movement.
To be more precise, I do miss things from home, beyond the obvious (in alphabetical order) family, friends and my TiVo but I mostly miss the feeling of ease when I’m living on my home base. At first the ‘missing something’ sentiments were small heartfelt nudges of longing but now they have revealed themselves as early homesickness symptoms, such as when you know a cold is coming on when your throat is scratchy.
Instances that wouldn’t occur to you as a big deal, become issues and big deals. There are no longer any quick trips to the grocery store. The only items I can buy without thinking is produce. I don’t need to read a label to know that those are apples and those are tomatoes. But then, with only 5 people behind me in line, oops, sorry, excuse me, I feel like an idiot, I forgot that in Spain, the produce is weighed and priced with a label before you get to the cashier. Get back to the produce section smarty pants; you’ve still got lots to learn.
When you can’t read the labels due to a language barrier, simply purchasing laundry soap, whitener and softener becomes a half an hour ordeal. It would help if the brands from North America were similar, so I could use some educated guesses, but the brands are not even close. (Which also reminds me, I miss having an ‘automated’ dryer. Hanging clothes on a rack to dry for a couple of days just isn’t doing anything for me.)
There is a great marketing story about a famous baby food maker who donated millions of jars of baby food to a starving country in Africa. The mothers refused to feed it to their children, even though the children were emaciated and near certain death. They finally figured out the problem via a translator; the mothers thought the jars were full of dead baby remains, referring to the photo of a baby’s face on the label. Once they hastily changed the labels to show what foodstuff was inside the jars; such as carrots, chicken, pears, etc. the food was quickly consumed. I get that now. Unless I understand the photo on the label, or visibly see the item, it stays on the shelf.
I miss my spices. I feel like I’m learning to cook all over again. The spices here are different and there are different spices. There is just something off about them and I can’t put my finger on it; it’s frustrating the hell out of me. I now regret taking 22 pairs of socks and not one favourite spice from home. Don’t get me wrong; I love trying different foods (as long as they don’t originate from crawling on the ground) but I also adore my comfort foods; foods that I can cook quickly and without thinking. I’ve done this learning to cook thing once already and I’m not too keen to try it again.
What I wouldn’t do for a regular cup of hot Canadian coffee. Coffee here is served stronger, not as hot and is only available con leche – with milk, no cream. I miss my coffee cream and have resorted to making my own, mixing whipping cream (I think it’s whipping cream) and milk. But it’s still not the same.
And – gasp! – What’s THAT? Solid PINK coloured toilet paper??? Perfumed pink toilet paper?? Did they not get the memo circulating around the internet years back that toilet paper with dyes and perfumes can cause cancer?? That your babies will be born deformed if you use pink toilet paper?? That carrying coloured toilet paper to your car can cause muggings and kidnappings in the parking lot? Finally – finally – it’s my turn to feel smug that I knew something they didn’t know and I did. So there. (Whether the information about coloured and perfumed toilet paper is true or not is not up for debate. Please don’t take my moment away.)
I miss not knowing what’s going on around me. I miss knowing the rules. I miss not having to think about things. (How much to tip? Why are the streets closed today? Can we park here?)
I feel so incompetent starting every conversation or exchange with, “Do you speak English?” and then dealing with the struggle that endures when they don’t. (Note to self: When English is denied, do not ‘test’ their honesty about their English-speaking skills by a) repeating the question two or three times or b) mentioning out loud that even your dog understands English.)
All in all, it comes down to I miss feeling smart. I miss my automation. I miss my familiarity. I like the fact that I’m shaking up my life a little and stretching my viewpoint. I’m enjoying dusting out the cobwebs and learning everything new. I just wish I could do it all wearing clean clothes from a dryer and Timmy’s in hand – ordered in English – extra-large, double cream. Oh yah, don’t forget the lid, pour favour.