|Lava lake hike.|
|Lava Lake hike|
|Land fall, lava flow into the ocean.|
Everything is so easy here! Some of it is simply there is no longer a language barrier. We've spent so much of our time in foreign ports and just getting directions or asking simple questions is often tedious. I can now ask anything I want, in as much detail as I want and I can actually understand the responses. It seems magical!
We are also getting used to being back on the grid. While we frequently log on to local wifi and get internet, we haven't had a phone or any way for anyone to communicate with us in three years. Mike initiated service on his iPhone and it was like the world was at our fingertips again. We could get directions while driving, receive texts in the middle of a hike, and have full access to the internet anytime we wanted. It is an amazing thing and we feel something equivalent to cavemen having been dropped into the 21st century. We are used to having to make lists of things we need to look up, people we need to contact and online chores we need to do and then wait, often weeks, until we can get internet access. Then at that future time, we try to get through the list with whatever glacially slow internet service available. A podcast in Polynesia would take about 30 minutes, a picture took at least 10 minutes to download and we totally gave up on downloading movies or new apps. The banking, corresponding, checking of weather and uploading of pictures to the blog used to be a chore that took easily half a day, now I can do the same thing sitting in the passenger seat of the car on the way to dinner. It is hard to convey what it feels like to be plugged back into the world. It won't always be a good thing, but it is certainly a new sensation for now!
We were also overwhelmed with the diversity and availability of products the first time we went into a supermarket......and everything was so incredible clean, almost sterile. There were no cockroaches hiding behind a box of cereal, we didn't have to check expirations to see if a box of cookies had been sitting on the shelf for several years. The aisles of choice were staggering and we've already gained a few pounds...well, just because we can! Most people probably don't come to Hawaii and rave about the prices, but coming from French Polynesia, Hawaii feels like a bargain.
Another difference we notice is how clean public facilities are. The first time we went into a restroom in a restaurant Ana was amazed "Look mom, toilet paper and a toilet seat." There were decrative plants, soap in the dispenser, a hot water option and paper towels. The place was spotless and we didn't even have to, either pay for 2 squares of TP, or bring our own. Little miracles. In morocco we didn't even get a toilet, in most of Latin America there was rarely a toilet seat and in Mexico we often rode on buses for hours that had no facilities. If you had to go, you waved at the driver, dropped your pants within a few feet of the bus and quickly did your business because the driver wouldn't wait long.
On the flip side of all these wonderful things that are now available to us, we now have to follow rules. In much of the world rules are mere guidelines for officials to follow and depending on the mood of the official you were dealing with, things could go smoothly or they could be difficult. Sometimes we blew off regulations and claimed ignorance. For example we crossed the Panama Canal without ever checking into the country. In Venezuela we were able to talk our way into a visit without a visa and in French Polynesia they don't care what you do or where you did it. Officially I think we are still in Polynesia, because now that I think about it, we never checked out!
We've also enjoyed liberties we can no longer enjoy. Porter, who has been driving the dingy for years, can no longer legally drive without an adult. Trivial things like fishing licences now have to be acquired. Ignorance is no longer an excuse, we actually need to know the laws and regulations. Our MO will definitely need to be adjusted now that we are back in the states.
Entering back into the US and seeing the flag flying was surprisingly emotional for me as well. We've been mere observers, watching from afar as the political situation in the United States seemed so far removed from us. I'm not particularly happy with the direction my country has moved in my absence, but I'm looking forward to playing my part in making change. We've been outsiders for a long time and I'm sure in a few months I will wish I could escape and go back to my isolated little spot on the ocean, but for now I want to partake. It is a screwed up country, but its my country and I'm happy to be home!