Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Palau Ruined Me

I left Palau just two and a half months ago.

Really? Is that all? Does it seem like it's been a lot longer than that to you guys? Someone get out a calendar and help me learn how to read it. Right now I'm just going off of feelings.

I actually think I might have a disability that keeps me from being able to read calendars and follow directions correctly. Even when that lady on my phone tells me how to get somewhere, I always end up somewhere else (typically inside Cafe Rio, eating a burrito the size of my arm). And then usually I find myself screaming obscenities into the open air until someone takes my hand and guides me the rest of the way. Which is probably how I ended up getting Axel the ringworm. And throat chlamydia.

I've had a lot of gross diseases lately.

And before you roll your eyes and tell me that there is no such thing as a disability that specifically targets the ability to read calendars and follow directions, I have to say that if there really is such a thing as "color blindness" then my disability is real too.

Kurt told me he that he's color blind a couple of weeks ago when he held up a white tie at the store and said "how pink is this?" I mocked him openly for being too dumb to know what "pink" means. Then he told me that my behavior constituted discrimination because he has a real disability.

But between you and me, I don't think Kurt is actually color blind. I just think he never learned his colors and then he conveniently found out that there's a disability that excuses him from putting forth the effort to learn them now.

My whole point in writing you today actually has nothing to do with my very serious disability for which I've just decided to host a benefit concert, date and venue TBA. Actually, I wanted to talk briefly about how Palau seems to have rewired my brain and I'm starting to wonder whether this rewiring is permanent.

Palau was very backwards from the life I had experienced prior to it. Having lived in Eastern Europe a couple of times, I thought I had already come to know what it meant to move to a completely different planet. And I really thought that Palau wouldn't feel very foreign to me since I had already seen a pretty broad spectrum of life.

WRONG!

Machete fights.

Betelnut.

One million degrees ALL OF THE TIME ALWAYS.

The shock took me by surprise. You could say, I was shocked by the fact that I was shocked. And before I knew it, I found myself completely changing the way I viewed a lot of things. Like personal hygiene. I had to stop caring that I was sweating ALL the freaking time. I had to stop trying to prevent this because I knew it was a pointless pursuit.

I've been home for two and a half months and I think I'm STILL sweating. Even when I'm cold. My poor body just thinks this is the way things are now.

The other day I was talking to Daniel on the phone. Remember him? He was the tall one that lived with me in Palau. No? He tried feeding people eggs that had been sitting out in the sun. Used to meow songs in the car. Late to everything. Still no? You guys have really bad memories.

Anyway, I mentioned to him that sometimes I miss Palau and other times I wake up screaming because I'm having a nightmare that I'm still there. He laughed. It was that laugh you can only do when you completely understand what was just said and that's the only way you can respond because it sums up your own experience perfectly. Palau completely changed the way I look at the world, just like I'm sure it has for Daniel.

I still can't help but get emotional every time I walk into the produce section at the grocery store. And I have to stop myself from clasping the hands of strangers perusing the selection and saying things like, "DON'T YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE HERE?! ARE YOU EVEN GRATEFUL!?!"

I have to remind myself whenever someone sends me a Youtube video not to read the title and just try to imagine how funny it probably is. Because I have Internet now that is capable of streaming videos! And loading my gmail! And bringing up Stranger instantly! And Paul Simon!

But the thing I can't seem to retrain myself on more than any other thing is how to drive a vehicle where the steering wheel is on the left-hand side.

For two and a half months, every single time I have tried to use the turn signal, I have instead hit the windshield wipers. Even when I make a conscious effort to get it right. I cannot, for the life of me, remember which side is which.

You ruined me, Stormtrooper.

Sometimes I feel like a pretty intelligent person. Then I get into my car, attempt to make a right turn in front of a lot of people, and start hitting every button and switch in the vehicle except for the turn signal. And then I can't help but feel like something is permanently wrong with me.

Maybe I'm color blind.

~It Just Gets Stranger

31 comments:

  1. Do you think you'd ever go back?

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    1. Too soon, E-Slice. Too soon.

      In all seriousness, I don't really know. I'm in a very odd place right now and trying to work out my feelings on the whole thing. I know that I'm very happy I went and I know that I'm very happy I'm back. Some days I was totally miserable and other days I was happy that I still had some time left. I miss some people so much that I get emotional if I start talking about it. But I also feel like I have a little PTSD over some of the really hard stuff--PTSD that will forever be associated with Palau in my mind.

      So, I don't know. Ask me later, ok?

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    2. Maybe you should plan a visit back there. See the people that you miss and only stay for a short amount of time. Maybe it could be a place that you visit frequently...who knows. You don't have to go back and stay, just a little vacation.....you know with sea snakes!! :/

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  2. OF COURSE WE REMEMBER DANIEL!!! LOL Yes, all caps were need here. Be sure to tell him that we are a mature group who likes Kurt very much, and we miss him terribly. :)
    I am glad you came home with such a grateful feeling about daily things we all taken for granted, try not to lose that.
    Perspective is a wonderful thing Eli MeowCann.

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  3. Typo alert: "Anyway, I mentioned to him that sometimes I miss Palau and other times I'm wake up screaming because I'm having a nightmare that I'm still there.:

    Your first "I'm" in the sentence should be "I"

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    1. Thanks! Can I hire you? I pay in compliments and attention.

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    2. If we're talking about typos, did no one else noticet he 4+ "calender"? It's calendar ;)

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    3. Ha Anonymous! "did no one else noticet he 4+..."

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    4. If it makes you feel any better, "calender vs calendar" traumatized my young 4th grade life by not allowing me to finish the "super speller" challenge for the year... curse you, calendar! Let's spell you "calendr" and skip this issue entirely. (Yes... I learned foniks as a kid)

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  4. Its so interesting how different life is after returning from another country like Palau, it really changes your perspective on life and the things we take for granted.

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  5. Just out of curiosity, what did you do with the Stormtrooper?

    anonymous only because I'm too lazy to go through the google rigamarole on this crappy computer.

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    1. Sold him to the person who replaced me.

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    2. Replaced you? Eli... You are irreplaceable.

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  6. When I was a little girl, during the Cold War with the USSR, we would sometimes see reports about that country on the news. They would feature long long long line ups and discuss how there was a shortage of everything and if you needed a sweater everyone would receive the same blue, size medium sweater and if you needed bread you had to get in line at 4:30 in the morning in the -30 C weather and even then they may run out before you got your turn. Sometimes they would show the store shelves and they would be almost completely empty with one or two boxes of tea bags available. This left a lasting impression on me and it's rare that I go into a grocery store without some appreciation for the vast array of food available to me. Even still when I travel to the United States (I'm from Canada) it is even more wonderous and impressive to see the sheer amount of choice you all have. For example, your cereal aisle is much much bigger than ours is. Once my children and I stood for a very long time in front of the Campbell's soup display in a giant Walmart, just amazed at how many different kinds there were since our store only has about 8 or 10 varieties. We don't even eat that soup but it was spectacular to see.

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    1. it's funny you mention the cereal. I served an LDS mission in Italy and there was a group of Italians that had taken a trip to the US and came back with their home videos. In one of the videos they were in a random grocery store and just walking down the cereal aisle incredulously. They were also stunned by how wide the streets were. It was funny to see their take on things that were so familiar to me.

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  7. I believe your disability is real. And that my mom also has it.

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    1. My mom has it too. The opposite, superpower, of your disability is called dead reckoning. All humans have it, but only certain (usually nomadic cultures) have the superpower developed. It drives my mom crazy that I know my way around ANYWHERE, and she get's lost going to her Dr. of 5 years.
      Also, so if Kurt is color blind, and he's a nurse, what color does he see blood? I'm guessing gray or black and think that's creepier than the usual dark red the rest of us sees. Just picture it, patient oozing/gushing black 'oil'.

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  8. Am I the only one that had to look up betel nut? Wikihow had an interesting article on how to chew betel nut. At the very end of the article it had bulleted warnings. My favorite was
    •Do not visit public betel nut markets alone if you are a tourist or an expatriate. Go with a local guide because public markets, especially in Port Moresby, have quite a lot of rascal activity.

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  9. It's called "Reverse Culture Shock" and it's a real thing... it's not a figment of your overactive and delightful imagination. And no, it doesn't go away; yes, it changes how you view the world and hey, that's probably a good thing. You've been stretched, broadened, deepened (stop now before I get to words I can't spell). I think you can google it - at the very least, you'll know You're Not Alone.

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  10. Kurt is a cat, and all cats are (mostly) colorblind.

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  11. I have a husband who is color blind and I feel I should warn you how the "color blinds" are. He knows very well that he doesn't see colors the way they really are but insists on arguing with me about what color something is. . . YEAH HE REALLY DOES. In the end he'll just say that I didn't see it right and I just have to be wrong. I'm like; YOURE FREAKING COLORBLIND!!! So just prepare yourself to have these conversations daily. They also buy purple shirts that they think are blue. I never say anything.

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  12. I miss Daniel! If I saw a picture of him again; before my eksams (my eks isn't working, and I'm too lasy (ised too) to copy paste) are over, I might go into full blown nostalgia and then maybe depression.
    Because you and Palau and especially Daniel signified a major point in my life.
    Sooooo GOOD to hear of him, but can you pleas put up some pics of him post Palau AFTER my eksams are over? (Dec 20th) Please? It'll also be like a celebration.

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  13. You were in Palau for about a year, right? Let's see if this driving problem hasn't been remedied within the 12 month mark of your return to the United States of God Bless America...

    In the meantime, maybe practice driving on the back roads and avoid the busier streets of Salt Lake City as much as possible?

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  14. Do you still walk to the right side of the car, unlock the door, and realize that the right side is actually the passenger side? Sometimes I do that in Palau (on the left side)...look around, and then pretend like I went to that side on purpose to set down whatever I have in my hands. Even if it is just a cell phone. Awkward! :/

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  15. I found your other blog... you know, the How To Be A Dad blog. http://www.howtobeadad.com/2013/19806/leaves-convos-with-my-2-year-old-video
    I mean, am I crazy to think that looks like you?

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  16. I thought for 30 seconds I saw you today, in NYC on 7th Ave, but of course I knew it wasn't you. I thought about being really awkward and telling your doppleganger he looked exactly like a stranger in SLC that I don't know, but I was already running 40 minutes late and still needed coffee.

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  17. It's the same for prisoner. They say they need a year-for-year period to adjust to life outside of prison. You getting naked in public should speed up your recovery...:)

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  18. So You Haven't Mentioned The Hurricane Or Tsunami Or Whatever Water Catastrophe That Hit Palau Last Week Or So. It Apparently Demolished All The Houses On One Of The Islands Of Palau. Were You Unaware? I Thought For Sure You Would've Written AboutIt.

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    1. Jasmine, I have responded to a few comments asking about it. Fortunately Palau was mostly missed by the typhoon. Some damage but apparently nobody was hurt. I feel sick about those who were less fortunate a little down the road.

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  19. Ha. I am just reading this now and you have stated spot on things I STILL have a hard time getting used to here. Just today I picked up some wilting celery and some on the fence carrots for the Thanksgiving stuffing and pray that they wont wilt and die by the time I will be cooking with them in a few hours. I also cant even imagine the day where I can actually watch youtube. Enjoy my friend!

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