Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Did living in Africa, change the way I do things?

When I first moved to China, I was still wearing African fashions, the big airy shirts that add a couple of pounds and that allow the skin to breathe under the hot sun. I was still wearing a lot of skirts and was not feeling really comfortable wearing form fitting pants. Plus they were hot and skirts were more practical for squat toilets.
Nowadays though, I live in a part of China where the weather is cold. Pants and long underwear are necessary. I have given up my desire to be Little House on the Prairie modest in long ankle length skirts and have adopted the more practical fashion of pants. I am still not very comfortable in tight jeans; although, lately I have been wearing them and have gotten used to them again.

In Africa, laundry was done by hand, two buckets, one with soapy water and one with clean water for rinsing. In China, I have a washing machine that uses electricity to agitate the soapy water, spin one way, spin the other. One must manually add water and drain the water. There is a spinner that is like a scientific centrifuge that spins out water while stretching out your clothes. I still do part of the wash the African way. I use a bucket to rinse out the soap and use muscle to squeeze out the water.

In Africa, I did not have a refrigerator. I would sometimes put leftovers in a clay cannery to keep the food cold. If it smelled all right and didn't have a slimy texture, I might eat it for breakfast.

In China, I have a refrigerator, but haven't figured out how to fill it. My fridge right now is completely empty. In a city, where I can eat out, three meals for $3 a day, I don't cook much and even if I did, I'd probably walk to the supermarket once a day like the locals do. For some reason, vegetables don't keep very well in fridges. They get slimy by the next day.

So did living in Africa change the way I live life or do things?

Not really.

What changes the way I do things, is what is available in the country in which I'm living. In Africa, I wore skirts, cooked small individual sized meals, and washed my clothes by hand. In China, I use the washing machine. I eat out and shop for food like the locals. I wear pants.

When I return to the states, I will probably start using a dryer unless I am living in the countryside. I will probably cook with an oven and drive a car unless I am in a bike friendly city.

Living abroad has taught me that I adapt. I don't hang onto my old ways, but follow the ways of the place I am living. Will I adopt the wasteful ways of the US? I hope not, but my track record of adopting a particular country's ways tells a different story.

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