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Rita Jolly

© 2003

Coming Back Home

The house has finally been packed up. It’s been a long week of coping with men movers, closing accounts, paying bills and dusting shelves. Dealing with daily routines as I’ve known for the last few years in Amsterdam will be fond memories. Easing back into everyday American culture after a long absence is now my concern.

Back in the US, I wonder what I’ve missed. What is new? And what about all of those TV programs everyone is talking about? I’m clueless. I can only think of culture shock. I assume “The Bachelor” must be a new musical group hitting the charts much like the Beatles did in the sixties. Wrong assumption, I quickly learn.

Someone offers me some M & M’s. It surprises me to see blue ones in the candy bowl. “When did the company add the blue ones to its colors?” I ask. Her rather shocked look precedes, “Oh, it’s been a few years now, I guess.” I’m sure she wonders what planet I’ve been visiting to have missed this marketing stroke of genius.

Going to a grocery store here is quite an adventure! The stores are huge; the aisles are wide…really wide. Many stores are open twenty-four hours for my shopping convenience. Should I have a craving for Old El Paso salsa and tortilla chips after midnight, I can head for the nearest 24-hour supermarket, shopping with the other insomniacs pushing their carts up and down the aisles.

There’s one other amazing thing about these supermarkets. I marvel at the depth and breadth of the cereal section. It’s a kilometer . . . oops, I mean a mile long. Many brands come in three sizes . . . small, medium and large. (If one goes to Sam’s Club, then there’s super-size available for half the price.) This would be perfect for the three bears should they ever get tired of having porridge for breakfast.

Americans have a love affair with their autos. The most popular seems to be the SUV’s. With gas being about $1.80 per gallon, it’s cheap to drive these super-size vehicles here. I can see it’s going to take some time to get used to these monster vehicles barreling down the road ahead of me slurping up gallons of gas.

Minnesota has two seasons--winter and road repair. I shudder at the thought of blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and wind chill factors. I will invest in some warm boots, a Vikings stocking cap and a snow shovel to get through the winter. Those north woods bears have the right idea about hibernating during the winter.

I’ll have to learn to be patient with traffic detours and slowdowns while the potholes get filled during the three months of warmer weather. Swatting off the “state bird”, the mosquito, while avoiding the water-filled potholes will call for special obstacle course driving skills.

And then there are the chocolates. Previously, chocolate was something I could live without very easily. I’ve never liked American grainy, sugary, rancid chocolates. Discovery of smooth, creamy, rich Dutch bonbons changed my views about chocolates. My doctor will be pleased to know this food group is once again no longer part of my daily diet.

Coming back home is on my mind. I will continue to fill in the blanks about things that are unfamiliar to me. Having a daily round of my own version of Jeopardy will be part of my game plan. I’ll be asking the questions even though the answers are already there, but I just don’t know them . . . yet.