Archive for December, 2006

Starting at the Beginning

Monday, December 25th, 2006

To start at the beginning of the story — click: 

Back in the USA

Monday, December 25th, 2006

We’ve been back in the states for a few months now.  With a baby on the way, we decided to have it in an American hospital.  There’s a hospital in Grand Turk, but it’s not the same type of facility as the hospitals in the states.  As the due date approached, we Nancy headed to Pittsburgh and stay with her parents.  I joined her a little while later and thankfully, the birth was relatively uneventful.  Our daughter Lucy is doing well.I miss Grand Turk.  While jarring at first, life back in the USA is growing increasingly familiar and comfortable.

I remember my flight back to Miami, and the following 16 mile drive to my sister’s house.  While it was the longest I’d driven in a while (Grand Turk is only 7 miles long), and the fastest I’d driven in a while (I don’t think the speed limit ever eclipses 35 mph in Grand Turk) – these weren’t the attributes that stuck in my mind.  People on the US highways (or at least the Miami highways) are so rude.  When a lane ahead is closed, the only way to merge is to head into the shared lane and hope the person you’re cutting-off likes their car enough to hit the brakes and avoid an accident.  Using a turn signal to indicate your desire to merge is merely displaying a sign of weakness.  In Grand Turk sometimes you need to sit on the brakes while waiting for horses or cows to cross the road.  Back in the USA I quickly fell back into my Miami driving style of: getting where I needed to go quickly; and for anyone who got in my way – screw ‘em.  The relaxed “soon come” attitude of the islands were gone.  In my first twenty minutes on the streets of Florida, I experienced more road rage than I had in the previous six months in Grand Turk.

Aside from the style of driving, the overall time I spend in a car has dramatically risen.  Even when the people I share the roads with act somewhat civilized and the traffic level is low – there’s still a bit of stress associated with driving.  I hadn’t noticed it when I lived in the US before Grand Turk because I was just used to it.  It’s sort of like a fish never feeling particularly wet.  I have decided that even relatively pleasant driving adds to my underlying level of irritability.  I think it’s fairly common for people in the US to spend >1hr a day in their car, and many people experience a 30+minute commute to work.  Maybe that’s one of the reasons there are so many miserable bastards on the road.  By contrast, I often spent less than 30 minutes on the road per week in Grand Turk, rarely for more than a few minutes at a time.

In Grand Turk, we spent our days at the beach, the pool, or engaging in other activities that were mostly outside and free.  The kids rarely asked for us to buy them things or take them to the store.  Of course, we didn’t have that many stores in Grand Turk, and the few stores there displayed a limited level of sophistication when it came to merchandising.  After just a few weeks back in the states, the kids frequently ask us to buy them the toys they saw on TV, or to go to places like Toys R Us.  When we arrived at the store, the layout, coloring, packaging, audio, and signage all hit their mark.  It seemed like an endless barrage of “I want” and “I need.”  While I always intellectually knew that consumerism was alive and well in the USA, I never realized how pervasive it was.  Our culture is so steeped in commercialism; it feels like a state religion.

One only has to look at my waist to see another visible sign of the change, moving from the islands to the states.  Instead of walking to town, I am spending hours in a car.  Instead of swimming in the ocean, I’m pushing a shopping cart in a store.  Instead of enjoying the day with members of my community, I am cursing the strangers who get in my way.  Is it any wonder that the 15 pounds I lost in Grand Turk have all been gained back with interest?

I miss Grand Turk.  I miss my tranquil times diving under the sea.  I miss the friendly community that welcomed me as a part of the whole.  I miss the slow pace and easy lifestyle.  I miss the life centered around shared experiences instead of purchasing and accumulating belongings.

Hopefully I’ll be back there soon, if just for a short visit.  Hopefully once I’m settled in my new house I’ll be able to recalibrate my lifestyle to one that more resembles my ideals than my surroundings.