Because humans are completely illogical and very contradictory creatures and because I’m definitely 100% human, despite my anarchist mini-rant about all the things I missed after our return to Canada, there are some aspects of Canadian life I’m rediscovering with pleasure.
No, not snow. Really, Canada—yesterday’s massive snowstorm was completely unnecessary.
Meanwhile, in Canada, I was happy to…
… find ATMs that actually dispense money.
On the road, withdrawing money feels like playing the lottery. Only a few selected ATMs and banks accept foreign cards and in South America, ATMs are often out of cash. Besides, a fee is charged every time you withdraw money and it adds up quickly.
In Ottawa, I have access to so many different payment methods that it’s no wonder we are all in debt. Credit card, debit card, cash… oh, look, I can buy a Coke just waving my debit card over the terminal! I can get cashback! My purchase is rounded down so that we don’t have to carry pennies!
… be able to make coherent sentences in a language I master.
Even though my grammar isn’t perfect, I can communicate in Spanish just fine and people seem to understand me easily as well. If I don’t know a specific word, I can guess it from context or use a paraphrase when asking a question.
However, Portuguese is a whole different ball game. I spent our month in Brazil getting the accent right (apparently, I have a Spanish accent) and trying to get my message across, much to locals’ annoyance since they don’t see why speaking Portuguese is so complicated.
Here is a typical linguistic dilemma. One night, we needed a sheet because inexplicably, despite the 40ºC weather in Rio de Janeiro, the bed had been made with a thick duvet. I walked to the reception, boa noite’d the employee and froze when I realized I had no idea how to say “sheet” in Portuguese. I tried Portunhol using the Spanish word for bedsheet—”sábana”—but it brought a blank stare. I went over all the options I knew—”drap” in French, “sheet” in English, “bèi dān” in Chinese… Nope, turned out it’s “lençol”—and trust me, miming a bedsheet is hard.
… Get a little bit of privacy.
“Wow that was a long pee-pee mommy, good job!”
“Mommy, why do you have hair on your legs?”
“Mommy, why did you get mad at daddy, yesterday?”
“Mommy, what do you have, here? Ask daddy to put some cream, okay?”
“Mommy, what are you putting on your eyes?”
“Mommy, why do you have breasts? Do I have breasts?”
… eat Chinese food and spicy food in general
I’m kindly suggesting governments of South American countries to create a new immigration category to fast-track applications from anyone willing to bring spicy food to the continent—Indians and Chinese from Sichuan are welcome to apply.
During our trip, I was hot when eating because it was 40ºC but I never once felt that lovely burning feeling in my mouth. In Chile—despite the name of the country!—, Argentina and Uruguay, food was lovely but bland. It’s cheesy, it’s buttery, it’s sweet or salty but it’s never sour or spicy. Flavours were a little bit subtle in Brazil but again, nothing spicy. At one point, Feng was so desperate for something hot that he bit into a red chili pepper—apparently, the local variety is so mild Mark ended up eating it.
First place we went to in Toronto when we landed? Chinatown. And we’ve both been cooking Chinese food with a lot of flavour since we came back.
… enjoy domestic appliances that work
There are three basic non-negotiable things we need from a hotel room: a shower, an Internet connection and two or three beds. Bonus points are given for a fridge, air con, a balcony, a microwave and cable TV that keeps Mark entertained.
We rarely had a hotel room where everything worked just fine. Sometimes we had no water pressure (São Paulo), sometimes the balcony door wouldn’t lock (Santiago), sometimes we had an old-fashioned gas oven instead of a microwave (Paraná), etc. Basically, every place had a minor flaw.
At home, everything works just fine, and if it doesn’t, we can fix it. For instance, we needed a new shower head. Feng and I went to Walmart, bought one, installed it. There, done. As simple as that.
… get full control of my computer
We travel with a laptop and a tablet. We share the laptop, Mark has full ownership of the tablet.
January and February were quiet months for us so we had a much lighter workload but we still had to work. Usually, our respective schedules don’t conflict… until they do. I remember one night in Rio where we both had work to do and we were taking turns in the middle of the night. “Are you done?” “Almost.” “I have a deadline!” “Hold on a second.” “Did you set the keyboard to ‘US English’ again?”
At home, we each have our own workspace and no window ever has to be closed without warning. Phew.
How about you? What do you rediscover with pleasure when you come home after a trip abroad?