----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: Re-entry: Indulgences

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Re-entry: Indulgences

Weeks before I return, I start to fantasize about how wonderful and perfect the US is. Of course I'm quickly disabused of my most far-flung and unrealistic fantasies. Some, however, are fulfilled to perfection.

I love being able to assume that the basic things in life will work. Anyone reading this and thinking, "Hah! Nothing works here!"? Well, things do. We function here on certain assumptions that are turned upside down in other countries. Take change, for instance. You know, that money you get when you don't have "exact" and aren't using plastic? We assume that everywhere we go, people who are selling things will have change. In the rare instances when there is no change in the cash register, a quick call to a manager results in new rolls of quarters, dimes, and nickels.

It doesn't work that way in the much of the world, where change is a precious commodity. I've waited as long as half an hour while a shop owner went from store to store, hunting for someone who will make change for her. In Cuzco, one returned to tell me she couldn't sell me the hat I wanted, because she couldn't get change. I intended to go back, but I could never find the shop again.

To get into the museum housed in the equator monument in Ecuador, I had to have lunch first. The ticket seller had only about 40 cents in change. I had only twenties. It cost $7, I think. (Ecuador uses the US $ as its currency). So I went to lunch, ate, then gave the retaurant owner a twenty dollar bill. I knew that since I'd already eaten, he had no choice but to find change somewhere.

It is for these occasions that I always carry a book. I ordered another Diet Coke, took out my novel, and settled in for the long wait. A couple of chapters later, I had one dollar bills, and a couple of fives. Amission! On these occaisions, it is important to manage the cost of the meal so you generate the correct change. A $14 meal would not have helped my situation much.

Going to the bank is usually not an option, sometimes because there are lines that stretch out the door and around the block. Other times, however, banks simply don't give change. In India, where changing a hundred rupee note can be a challenge, the ATMs dispense notes for 500 . In Bombay, ATMs spew out 1000 rupee notes. When I went into a bank and asked for change, I was told, "No." No apology, no explanation, just an irritated tone. "No."

While this all can seem cute or quaint or only mildly annoying for a week or two, after a couple of months it gets just a little bit hard to take. So after six months of this, not having to hoard change, think about change, or plan my use of change is a true treat.

Another luxury is hot water. No need to ask at check-in whether there is a hot water shower. Hot water in the shower and sink is a given. When the boiler broke in the St. Pete Ramada Inn, I got two days at half price, for the inconvenience of taking cold water showers that would pass as hot in many countries. Florida doesn't have really cold water coming out of its taps in the summer, so it really wasn't bad.

On some trips I don't miss hot water. When it is really hot and humid, a hot shower that raises my body temperature is not what I want. I have been known to curse if I should accidentally get hot water out of a pipe that is exposed to the sun. Unlike the change situation, I could, of course, pay more money for a room and not have to ask about hot water. Maybe.

Advice to Myself: Wallow. Just wallow in the luxury.

No comments: