As you may have seen or heard, we recently returned from a trip to the US that we were somewhat underprepared for. It was a work trip for Bazil, over to his head office in Milwaukee where a training conference was taking place. He’s been there a couple of times before on his own, but this time I thought I’d tag along with him, mostly in the hope of bringing back some groceries for the jungalow kitchen! As I explained in my last post, when you live on a remote, developing island – you just don’t turn down any opportunity to visit civilisation. One downside to this particular opportunity though, was that it meant swapping these balmy tropical sea breezes for the frosty subzero temperatures of the northern hemisphere.. wearing only light cotton clothing. See, here in the jungle there is no requirement for winter clothing of any sort. The only time we experience ‘cold’ here, is when we come in to the air-conditioning from outside with completely sweat saturated clothing. Any warmer layers I did have here originally, were worn back to Australia earlier in the year and left there. Before we left for our arctic adventure to the US, many people here went digging around in the bottom of their just-as-equally-bare winter wardrobes in an attempt to assist us. I borrowed a light cardigan, a size 18 knitted shirt to wear as a dress, and a few other bits and pieces. Before we boarded our plane in Bali, I also managed to find myself a full length pair of yoga pants, some closed in shoes and a piece of fabric to wear as a scarf. Unfortunately, our best improvisations just weren’t enough. When we stepped outside at Chicago airport, the sudden blast of cold right through to my skin made my sleep deprived mind conclude that I must have inadvertently left every thread of my clothing back in customs. While we sat in a bus shelter looking like a pair of boneheads who had neglected to google the temperature of their holiday destination and pack accordingly, we concluded that an urgent trip to the shops was a necessity. (Note: This may well be the first time Bazil has willingly agreed to enter a clothing store. That’s how cold it was.)
I like travelling, but I really don’t enjoy that actual travelling part. Let me explain. I love exploring places I haven’t been to before. There is nothing quite like the feeling of arriving at a new destination, and feeling that initial assault on your senses as you’re suddenly immersed in the sites, sounds and smells of a foreign place. What I find less than enjoyable is what I refer to as ‘travel days’. Days spent sitting in a seat in the sky, surround by people who, due to a change of air pressure have a digestive system full of noxious gas that will ultimately need to be released. People who think the confined space of economy class is the perfect place to remove their stench containing shoes. Plane toilets. (Shudder). Bumps in the sky that apparently result in questionable puddles all over the floor of plane toilets. Those sock wearers that drag their smelly socks through said puddles, over the top of your feet and any belongings that might be on the floor, and back to their seats. I don’t usually find sleeping an option, and I get bored with movies. There is something about travel days that bring out the 5 year old inside me. I try to keep myself entertained, fed and out of harms way, but if the flight is a long one, I can get annoying.
I am that person that opens the window shade a fraction every few minutes, flooding the dark cabin with that dazzling bright sunlight in an attempt to cross reference the scenery down below with the geographical information provided on the in-flight maps. I like to share any points of particular interest to my headphone wearing husband, knowing that my discovery will not interest him in the least, and that he’ll be forced to pause his movie, remove the head phones and pretend to find the fact that we’re flying over another frozen river in the middle of Frozen Riversville interesting.
Towards the end of a multiple-leg journey across the skies, I always find myself in a brain fog that leaves me with just one semi-intelligible thought. Must find bed. By the time we finally made our way from Sumbawa to Milwaukee and arrived in a room with a bed, my mind (and body) was so numb that I failed to register that actually getting into the bed would have been more conducive to a restful night’s sleep. See? Annoying. While the dropping temperature (and the fact that Bazil was at work most days) was a little restricting on our itinerary, there were many highlights and memorable moments. Driving ourselves around was an adventure in itself. Bazil had the wheel, but I can assure you I was driving very vocally from the passenger seat. This is not behaviour I normally feel the need to engage in, but when hurtling down the ‘wrong’ side of the highway in the ‘wrong’ side of the car, I felt it necessary to share constant reminders that we should most definitely ‘keep right, keep right, keep right’.. During our travels we went and saw The Lion King at Milwaukee Theatre, we attended a game of ice hockey, and we managed to get some tickets to the much anticipated college football game featuring Wisconsin Badgers vs Nebraska Cornhuskers. The crowd of people in this stadium, and their enthusiasm for this game that I knew nothing about was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The cold we felt on this afternoon, was also unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Sitting in the front row of an open stadium with snow piling up on top of me, sipping from a water bottle that was full of glasslike shards of ice, was a whole new level of complete and utter torturous discomfort. Anyway enough about the cold. I could go on about our travels, but the things I’ve been wanting to share on this blog the most, aren’t about our trip to the US at all. This blog post has been sitting here kind of blocking my flow for weeks. What I really want to write about is the contrast between life in Sumbawa and life on the other side of the world, and I’m not talking about the difference in temperature. I have a lot of words swirling around in my heart at the moment, sentences that haven’t quite taken form yet. I’ve been trying to capture them and put them down on paper for some time, but I am starting to wonder whether the things I feel here on this island are simply things that just can’t be put into words, they must be felt.
Cold can not be described. It must be experienced. We have always hired a driver when in a country that requires driving on the opposite side of the road from what we are accustomed. Otherwise we would be divorced or dead within the first few hours of our visit. Heck, I can’t even remember which way to look when crossing at a crosswalk! A friend once shared that one should never travel any place that is colder than the place from which one is departing. As I was reading your blog posts during your midwestern U. S. travels I felt sincere sympathy for you. Please consider visiting again in the late spring or early summer. It’s really quite lovely then.
haha Lisa, I had some awkward road crossing moments as well, it does mess with your head when it’s all reversed! If we never travelled to anywhere that wasn’t colder than this place, our options would be extremely limited. I think we’d be stuck here! If you’re prepared for it, it’s not so bad – our problem was being completely unprepared!
I love it when you update your blog! I am interested to hear more about your US trip, and the things you bought home with you. And that jacket looks like perfect cold-weather gear. What did you think of America? What did you enioy?
As for the driving, it can be totally overwhelming. It took me a few weeks to stop freaking out driving on the right-hand side. After going to Australia and back to Germany recently, though, I figured out opposite-side driving is a learned skill, because this time in both countries, it took me a about an hour to get confident. This is only my theory, and my husband wasn’t so confident in me, especially after some windscreen-wiping-indicator turns.
Hi Alison! The list of things I brought home with me probably wouldn’t really excite you! It goes something like this.. flour, chickpeas, almonds, cashews, lentils, mustard, honey.. etc etc! There were also some more fun things like snorkels, a gym ball, books, paint, water-colour paper, but it was mostly pantry goods! The parts of America we saw were pretty much how I imagined it would be. Everything is just big. Big cars, big road, big shops, big meals. It’s a bit of a contrast to here!