23 July 2009

Hot air 10 - a.a.w.o.l.

a.merican a.bsent w.ith o.ut l.eave (okay, this army term is a bit of a stretch, but im going with it)

i guess now is as good a time as any to summarize my "being back" experience. mostly, it wasnt all it was cracked up to be.

at first, i had had to adapt to france, everything was new. then being back for christmas, things felt comforting. but once back in france, we appreciated aspects of that lifestyle more and got more comfortable there. coming back just served to glaringly show us all the things we had left behind in france. i dont mean to crap on my country, but you have to take the good with the bad. also "you dont know what you have until its gone" has never rung more true. two major things stuck out for us i guess.

1. the food. yes, its very to easy to complain about american food. but i think i have a wide appreciation for what is "good food." not everything needs to be gourmet or 3-courses for me to enjoy. but it should at least taste good and be made with decent ingredients. we had been modifying our eating habits even before we left the u.s. so the food in france only served to enhance this sentiment...there is WAY too much processed crap in the american diet. preservatives, added sugar, added salt, "diet" food products. and our government-subsidized corn program that pumps garbage corn by-products into virtually all foodstuffs. its appalling. it doesnt have to be that way.

i gained some weight even being back less than a month. i have a glimpse of how difficult it must be for people who are fighting the up-hill battle to weight loss. the odds are stacked against you. plus, "organic food" is still expensive and is only slowly increasing respect in the eyes of people who call it "a fad." grrr. its tough. couple that with the fact that no one walks anywhere and i no longer have to answer the question, "why is there a high percentage of obesity in the U.S.?" im totally not taking this out on people. its our cultural/societal set-up i guess. i felt like a prisoner when i went to the grocery store. convenience and variety were favored over health and taste. but anyway, i will get off that soapbox...

2. the driving. anything to do with driving: cars, highways, commuting, traffic, construction, etc. roadtriping from florida and then halifax, plus the daily driving around michigan gave me ample opinions about this. basically, we didnt have a car in france, so im not comparing. but the lifestyle we had didnt require a car, which was nice on a whole other level. again, to be fair, we had started this trend while still living in the u.s. in ann arbor, dave biked to work and i mostly rode the bus or walked. no matter where we are, this is what we prefer for daily life (but i can still enjoy a good road trip).

anyway, the driving highlighted all of the wide open spaces filled with endless cement. the world feels cold and unfriendly from inside your car. since carpooling isnt popular, this means that it makes for a very lonely driving experience. everyone is going about their lives without needing to interact much with real people. add to this texting and other non-social technology and i just felt totally out-of-place. ive never liked using the phone, so that gives me a bit of a prejudice, but instead of feeling connected to people, i felt distant and separated.

i know that canada is not wildly different from the u.s. in terms of food and driving, so i will have to find my ways around the downer feelings they bring. we hope to live in the downtown, so at least we can eliminate daily use of the car. and food...theres a farmers market and we will get a chance to find the healthy grocery stores soon.

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