Saturday, June 9, 2012

Shock: Culture, Food, and the Potential International Appeal of Tereré

In Ann Arbor, on an industrially awesome swing.
After being out of the US for 20 months, I went on a two-week vacation to the States, spending a week in Bloomington, IN and a week in Ann Arbor, MI.  I head back to lovely Paraguay in a few days.

A few things about current American culture that I have learned about during my vacation:

Also, I forgot what its like to be surrounded by people who are JUST like me (family). For example, when we went out to eat at restaurants, we all ended up ordering the same dish… this happened three times, in three different restaurants.
In Bloomington, on my way to Contra Dance.

Aside from getting confused about where to put leftovers and empty containers, I have also been surprised by how much time people spend indoors.  In the US, our houses are much more enclosed than houses in Paraguay.  This is absolutely necessary due to the differences in climate and occupations (most people don’t have a bunch of farm animals to attend to).  But the stark divided between Indoors and Outdoors was something that I had not been cognitive of before living outside of the US.
One of the greater challenges I faced during my vacation was my inability to tune out other peoples conversations.  In Paraguay, because I actively have to work to understand Spanish or Guarani, it is easy to tune out other peoples conversations when on the bus or in a store.  But in the US, I can’t just opt-out of overhearing and comprehending a conversation I have no interest in.  I don’t WANT to know about some stranger's awkward faux pas with a coworker, but I have no choice in the matter.  It makes my brain a much nosier place.
The last cultural shock thing I’ll mention is about the difference in scale.  Walking around Lowe's, Target and Kroger's completely blew my mind. They are just so BIG and full of stuff.  It was really overwhelming and not in a good way.  Walking around a Supper 6 in Asuncion after being in site for a month can sometimes be trying, but it doesn't feel as needlessly massive as these other stores.

Flank steak with my Dad's homemade hot sause, local green beans with spicy mustered sause, and local new potatoes. Yum. 
OH, one more thing: FOOD.  Dang I love food in the USA.  I have been eating well and often in the US!  I had delicious home cooked meals made by my Dad.  He basically cooked all the foods that I have been really missing (mushrooms, flank steak, mixed greens, potatoes, etc.), and my friends Emily and Micah have been taking me to some of the incredible restaurants that Ann Arbor has to offer…. including South Indian food! Yum!  However in between my various delicious flavorful meals, I have been drinking plenty of tereré.  To my delight my family and Micah and Emily have been joining in as well… just in time for summer in the States.
In a few days I head back to Paraguay where winter has apparently arrived with a vengeance.  Guess Ill be switching from tereré to mate ….

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