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Friday, August 23, 2019

What do I miss most about the US?

I mentioned in an earlier post that one thing I really miss from the US is the clothes washing situation.  For any not familiar with the European washing process, it goes something like this.
  • Washing machines are the size of a small dishwasher. I cannot fathom how families cope with this fact alone.
  • Nearly all washers are front loading and 60% of them smell mildewy, so you leave the door open in the hope that the smelliness dries up.
  • Some have only a bunch of symbols and no decoder ring.  If you’re lucky there are words on it you can translate if they’re not in English. 
  • There is possibly a second dial for temperature. Don’t forget this is Celcius. Many times this is combined with the other dial so you just have to know that if you select Cotton it will be a higher temp and Delicate will be lower.
  • If you get the settings wrong you end up with infant-sized socks and your black and white bikini is now a black and grey.  
  • There’s a drawer in the top with three trenches with no labels.  Past experience and murky buildup indicates that the far left one is for detergent, the middle one is for softener which often has clogged to the point where it doesn’t make it into the wash, but enthusiastically sloshes out upon opening the drawer. I have heard that the third slot is for prewashing but no one uses it. 
  • There may be a display showing the approximate number of minutes till completion.  If you chose the wrong setting, be aware that it could take over three hours. Seriously.  The normal settings usually take about an hour and a half. Again... how do families do it?
  • Close the door firmly and find a button with a triangle/start button hope for the best.
  • Some washers have a “dryer” setting. I put dryer in quotations because I have never found a setting which actually produces dry clothes.  A British friend explained, “It’s easy, you just have to stop the wash halfway through when it gets to the dry cycle, and take half of the clothes out and then let it finish and then you can take those out and put the rest of the wet clothes back in and set it to dry only.  You might have to finish up with hang drying, but it’s pretty dry.  It’s easier than using a dryer.” Refer to the earlier note that Europeans don’t know what they’re missing.
  • Remove your clothes and look for the drying rack.  If there’s a clothesline outdoors, and you’re in England, hang the clothes to dry, go inside for 10 minutes and then run back outside and take them all down because it has started to rain.  Rehang them on the drying rack or if one cannot be located, use the back of kitchen chairs, towel racks, or cabinet handles and wait two days for them to be dry enough to wear. (Or wait 15 minutes when you're in Thailand summer heat!)
  • Put your clothes away immediately. You don't have the option to pop on the wrinkle out dryer setting!
  • Oh, one last thing, since there's no dryer, if you have pets or if you accidentally left a kleenex in your pocket, good luck removing all that residue from your clothes!  Best invest in lint rollers!

Did you get all that?  Now wasn’t that easy?? 

Americans, please go hug your washers and dryers for me and tell them that you appreciate them.

For my European friends, here is how washing works in the US.

  • Every home is equipped with a washer and a dryer. Each is typically a little less than a meter wide and a little more than a meter tall. When I was married and my husband worked construction and went through two pairs of clothes a day and I worked out and had a second set of clothes to wash, I could still fit everything into two loads - one for colors and one for whites.
  • Traditionally the washer is top-loading and the dryer is front-loading. No mildew smell unless you forget your laundry in there.
  • There is one dial on the washer where you select from settings like: Cotton (options for heavy, normal or light soil), Delicates, Permanent Press (colors that wrinkle easily) and possibly other settings for Heavy soil or Knits or Handwashing.  There is another dial labeled cold, warm, or hot. There is another dial for load size: small, medium, large and extra-large.
  • You toss the detergent directly into the washing tub. There's a separate slot on the side or middle of the basin that is labeled Softener, but most people skip that and use dryer sheets for softener.
  • Close the door and pull the cycle selection dial out to start.  The dial will turn as it goes through prewash, wash, spin, rinse, second rinse to note which part of the cycle it's on. There might be numbers to indicate the number of minutes.  I suppose new models are digital, but this is the way mine always worked.
  • The wash cycle usually takes about 30 minutes depending on the setting you chose.
  • Remove clothes from the washing machine and place ALL of them into the dryer.
  • Remove the lint catcher from the dryer and make sure it's clean before each use.  It's amazing how much lint and pet hair collects in this thing.
  • The dryer also has settings based on the type of fabric and options for timed dry or auto dry (less dry, normal, or more dry).
  • Throw a dryer sheet in to soften and scent your clothes.
  • Press start.
  • Come back in an hour or so and you have magically dry clothes!
  • If you forgot and left your stuff in there for a couple days, select the Fluff or Wrinkle Out setting so you don't have to iron them to remove those pesky wrinkles.
Joy!  😄

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Going Home without Going Home

Fellow nomads warned me that I might feel reverse culture shock upon returning to the US after 15 months of traveling. I’m not sure what that was meant to them, but I didn’t have it. Possibly I avoided it since I didn’t go “home” per se and I already had an outbound ticket back to Europe.  I could treat it as another chapter in my adventure and not worry about it being an ending. (Spoiler alert: it was another fantastic chapter.)

It was comforting to slide back into a space with familiar language, customs, laws, and roads (built for big American cars on the right side). Plus - clothes dryers!  Europe really doesn’t know what it’s missing out on there. 

My mom’s family plans a reunion once every 3-5 years or so. Rather than having it in someone’s home or hometown, we choose a place where we would all like to visit. We pick a place with natural beauty and interesting attractions, then rent a place big enough to house all of us for a week.  None of this spend one day together and then go back our separate ways nonsense!  We genuinely enjoy each other.  This is not some obligation to be fulfilled so it was a no brainer that I had to say yes when dear “Aunt” Ginger invited me to Pacific City, Oregon. 

I have long appreciated that I am terribly fortunate to have such a great family (on both sides) but since traveling and hearing many sad family stories ranging from apathy to abuse, I came to this reunion with a deeper sense of gratitude and it was returned tenfold. 

We met up at a Portland Food Cart pod before setting out to the coast and cousin Ben (7 years my junior) exclaimed, “Hey look! It’s that lady from the internet!” 

Over the week, we touristed, we laughed, we shared stories, we took turns cooking and eating fabulous meals, we paid each other lots of compliments, we hugged, we played games, we sat around the fire and sang, roasted marshmallows, some played guitar, some played the keyboard. There were tears of joyful sorrow and gratitude at the end of the week. I am so proud to be part of such an amazing group of talented, inspiring, caring people.

Plus I got to meet someone I’ve had a HUGE virtual crush on since seeing my cousin post photos of her a couple years ago.  Sonny was even more loveable in person!  <3

I wish I could bottle up the joy, the stories, the laughter, the love from that week.

The rest of my time in Oregon carried on with the same momentum. I went to writing meetups, I attended parties, I helped throw parties, I hiked to waterfalls, attended festivals, discovered an unexpected romance, had my tarot cards read, got my fortune from Zoltar, made new friends, reunited with old friends, and was so fortunate to have visits from my dad and stepmom and friends from Kansas City, Southern Oregon and Texas.  A new friend observed something about being a powerful woman to draw so many. Ha!  

I got to see “my” cat, Miss Mia Pretty Princess Mole Slayer. I admit I was sad but not surprised when I picked her up and she looked to my brother with a face that said, “Save me from this strange woman!”

AND! I got to finally check an item off my bucket list.  I got to have a bonfire on the beach!  Even better, it was right before the Fourth of July so we sat back and watched the fire, drank wine and watched people light off fireworks on the beach while hearing the ocean tide rolling in.  It was even more magical than I’d imagined.

Some asked me why I didn’t visit Kansas City, but no. I wasn’t ready. Even in Portland I felt torn in too many directions.  I knew in Kansas City I’d be overwhelmed with scheduling visits. Plus, I envisioned questions that I haven’t found the answers to yet. I didn’t want to feel that I was going back “with nothing to show for myself”. I know that’s silly, but that’s part of my inner dialog. Logically I know that I have indeed accomplished things but not as many as I’d hoped I would by now. (I probably will never be able to measure up to my inner critic.)

It was hard to leave Oregon and all the amazingness it embodies. The wealth of natural beauty is hard to beat. Lush forests full of ferns, wildflowers, and moss; incredible waterfalls and coasts with some of the coolest rock formations I’ve seen in the world. The people there really value individuality.  Plus it’s a foodie paradise!  If I didn’t have a housesit in Slovenia lined up, Portland could easily have been the end of my amazing adventure and the start of a new one.