Thursday, April 5

Things I miss about the USA

While we love living in Ecuador, as evidenced by our recent Things I Like About Living in Ecuador, there are some things we miss about our home country, the USA. What are some of the things that come to mind?

1) Family. Most missionaries I know consider missing their families back home the greatest hardship and personal sacrifice of serving our Lord overseas. One can usually adapt and adjust to a different culture and lifestyle, but one never gets to the point of not missing family back home. Missing weddings, births, funerals, holidays, and seeing nephews and nieces grow up is without a doubt some of the hardest things about being a missionary. Then there is the guilt about not being there with sick family, or having aging parents, and the reality of one's children not really knowing their relatives back home.

2) Walmart. Ahhh, Walmart. The #1 shopping destination of every USA missionary on the planet! The truth of the matter is that Walmart is a very intimidating place to go. There are just so many choices! Not only that, when we are Stateside my wife will send me to the store for ONE ITEM and I will invariably return home having spent over $100 every time. I don't think we have ever been in a Walmart in our lives that we spent less than $100. And yet there is something magnetic that simply draws one inside to spend, spend, spend on mainly stuff that we don't need, but once you see it in Walmart you wonder how you ever were able to live without one! Right after Walmart for me come Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and Best Buy!

3) Convenience foods. Actually this is also one of the most stressing parts about a visit to the USA. There is so much to choose from! So many new foods to try out. It becomes mind boggling with so many choices in just the cereal row at the grocery store! But my wife loves all of the great tasting, easy to fix, packaged, ready-to-go instant foods filling grocery stores shelves back home. When one is used to spending so much time in food preparation, one really appreciates all the packaged, pre-prepared convenience foods.

4) Security. This is one that most people living in the States do not worry about too much. But it is quite different here. To get in our house it takes six keys, a high cement wall, an electronic security gate, two metal doors, and a bolted wooden door with three locks. Even so, if a thief wanted to break in, it would be a cinch. Our home has already been broken into on two separate occasions. Both times everything we had of value was stolen. The house was cleaned out, every drawer and filing cabinet dumped. Even my wife's wedding rings were taken--twice! We live in a dangerous city where crime, violence, assaults, robbery are everyday occurences. I have personally been held up at gun-point twice, had my head split open with the butt of a pistol and left bleeding out in the street in an attempt to steal our vehicle. Our car has been broken into so many times I have lost count, tires stolen, car radios stolen, and windows busted to get things left in the seat. While we realize the USA has its security problems too (9/11 anyone?), one still feels "safe" living in the USA. I love the freedom one has there to just get in your car and go places and enjoy them without having to worry about security issues.

5) Dr. Pepper. I sometimes think I could live here forever if they would ever just figure out a way to get a continuous supply of DP. There is one store in the entire city that gets in a case or two every month. What they have in stock is usually immediately bought up at outrageous prices per can by the first person who happens to check the store when the shipment arrives. The last time I was able to time my visit to the store in order to buy a six-pack was six months ago! Dr. Pepper is only one of many wonderful American products that always taste three times better overseas where they are not readily available as they taste when one lives in the USA. Don't believe me? Just come down for a short 10-day volunteer trip and see how quickly you will lay down the $$$ for a Big Mac when you get back home!

6) Respect for rules. People actually stop at "STOP" signs. When it says "Don't Walk On The Grass" or "No Litter" people obey. The idea of people waiting in line and not cutting in or stampeding to be first. People Stateside don't throw their trash out the car window. I love the general attitude of considering littering as a real "no-no". These may not seem like a big deal, but once you live in a society where few rules are respected, one does realize how much nicer things can be when people abide by common sense rules.

7) Service oriented businesses. Unless you have ever lived overseas it is hard to appreciate the friendly, excellent service in establishments one takes for granted in the USA. So often the attitude we live with overseas is that they are doing you a favor by assisting you, and could really care less if you do business with them or not. The more they have what you want, the worse service tends to be. They know you will put up with about anything in order to get what it is they have to offer.

8) American values. I know many people in the USA think America has lost its values and principles, but it only takes a few weeks living outside the USA to realize how much we take certain things for granted living in the USA. For example: honesty, fairness, justice, equality, work ethic, honor, appreciation for beauty, respect for the environment, safety precautions, respect. All of these tend to be values here as well, but not nearly as strong as they are in the USA. This one could be the subject of an entire post, but suffice it to say, we miss that part of society that hold these values in high regard.

9) Good roads and public services. Most missionaries simply do not understand why people gripe and make a fuss when it comes to Stateside public services such as the U.S. Postal Service, roads, utilities, etc. Granted, you have to pay for them with taxes and a good portion of your monthly check, but few people worry about not having running water, consistent electricity, good roads, dependable phone service, flawless TV reception, etc. What a blessing!

10) Wholesome and fun activities for the family. One of our favorite family activities in the States is to visit the local public libraries. What a priviledge to have all those books just sitting there waiting to be checked out and read! Getting your hands on a good novel or one of the latest books everyone is talking about is a luxury item overseas. While there are a few fun things to do where we live, we have already done them so many times, they have lost most of their appeal to us as a family. There are so many things to see and do back in the USA and all of us look forward to them. Things like eating out, parks, museums, shows, theme parks, the zoo, swimming pools, ball games, rodeos, musical events, conferences and programs, special school and church programs & activities, shopping, putt-putt golf, visiting the malls, and just driving around looking at all the nice houses people live in.

11) Beauty of the land and its people. This is something I always look forward to when going back to the States. The beautiful land. There is so much to see and appreciate and I never tire of travelling around the country viewing the sights. While our host country is also very beautiful, we love the USA national parks, and all the gorgeous scenery that varies from region to region. It is also nice to not "stand out", but to just be another person. Here we are different. We are outsiders. Foreigners. Gringos. When we are Stateside, we just fit in easier with everybody else.

20 comments:

S.A.M. said...

Guy, Very funny, most of them except for the security and the family part. I know that our family and friends will be missed when we are in the field. Luckily, the internet has certainly made the world a lot smaller, and made communication easier, however not the same. I have tried to limit my DP intake to get ready for overseas, maybe it will help. Bless you in your work and thanks for your wisdom and advice. I pray for you and those around you every morning, and will continue to do so.
SAM

Gary Snowden said...

Guy,

Reading your post reminded me of so many experiences. We too had our house broken into twice but never were robbed at gunpoint. Unlike you, we did have several Walmarts eventually in Argentina, but they didn't carry too many N. American products. I did identify with the statement about cereal choices. Our first trip to a Walmart after coming home on furlough the first time was unforgettable. I walked down the cereal aisle and literally became dizzy and almost sick at my stomach from all the choices. It was overwhelming after only having corn flakes and rice krispies to choose between (and only 1 maker of those).

We did find a way around the DP issue as well. We found a distributor in Dallas that would sell us the syrup directly and bought several cases of the stuff (4 gallon bottles to a case). Mixing that with agua gasificada rendered a pretty decent tasting Dr. Pepper.

I found almost all of your list very true to our experience as well. Values like honesty when the norm you live with day in and day out is corruption really make you appreciate certain aspects of the good old USA. Highways and public services would be high on that list too.

While your mention of wholesome and fun family activities is certainly true, we miss the slower paced lifestyle of Latin America that permitted families more leisure time together. We used to see so many families just walking in the parks or having a picnic on weekends in Argentina. Family ties were very strong there and that's one thing that isn't always seen as clearly here.

Larry Who said...

Thanks for writing this. Most of us stateside Christians forget there is a price for obeying the Great Commission

GuyMuse said...

S.A.M.

Thanks for continuing to remember us in prayer. I can't think of a better way for folks back home to be involved with us in our calling. Prayer takes effort, but its dividends are eternal. One of the results of the "flatenning of the world" is that communication is vastly improved. The tools we have at our disposal today make it a lot easier to maintain contact with family and prayer supporters.

Gary,

You've "been there and done that" so you know from first-hand experience about these matters. Nomad, who is currently on furlough in the USA has his own list of Stateside Observations which I enjoyed reading. If you haven't seen it, give the link a click for a good smile!

Larry,

Yes, there is a price, but it is well worth it in the end! Of all people, we feel we are the most blessed, and count it an honor to be able to serve our Lord in this manner. About all we ask of folks back home is to pray for us!

Paul Burleson said...

Guy,

You have reminded me of several of my own blessing with this post.

One is my homeland. with all her faults, she is the best nation on planet earth from my perspective. Another is what Larry said. I've family, as you know, in Chile and often talk with them about what is missed by serving in another culture. But, like you, they talk of the price and dismiss it as well worth whatever it might be.

Guy, I don't know you from having met you personally, but this praying for you regularly, reading you constantly and commenting occasionally sure creates a bond that I like. Thanks for what you and your family are faithful in doing.

GuyMuse said...

Paul,

Thanks for your prayers and friendship. We know J and K there in Chile, have not met their kids, but have in common with them having adopted two children of our own.

More than ever we need your prayers for sustaining us and lifting our spirits, that we would remain joyful in our service to the Lord and not grow weary. Again, thanks for praying.

OC Hands said...

Guy,
We can certainly identify with you concerning the things we love about this country of ours. My wife said "Sounds like he's ready for furlough" (She meant SSA :-)
Although Taiwan in the early 70's was still somewhat backward, due to the US military presence we could still manage to find some "black market" items at the "Ma shop"--rusty cans of vegetables and cocoa, salt and sugar. But we found some substitutes for cereal. There was a man who came by periodically and "popped" the rice for our rice krispies. It was quite an event, as the "explosion" was quite loud. Our kids loved it. And instead of fritos (which my wife said was what she gave up for the mission field, along with Dr. Pepper) we found the local version of snacks quite interesting--Kadi kadi (deep fried soy flour dough), shrimp chips, peanuts soaked in some sort of brine (which our MK's traded with the military kids for candy bars). And of course, the Chinese food replaced many of our favorites from the US.
One of the interesting concepts of sales overseas seemed to be--I am stocking this item so my store will look good. But if it sells quickly, I won't buy any more because it means I have to replace them. I never understood that.
Bargaining over just about everything became a habit that I find hard to break.
The most signicant thing that I loved to return to in the US was the pleasant smells and aromas. Stinky doufu, burning peanut oil, open sewers discouraged one from taking too many deep breaths. In fact, some missionary actually told for a fact that when they returned to the US he began to experience pain around his rib cage. It took awhile to realize that for the first time he was breathing deeply.
Enough reminiscing!!! We do pray for you and are so excited about the kind of things youall are doing.

Where will youall do your Stateside? We are moving to Arlington TX next month, hope to be able to connect with youall sometime, somewhere.
Milton

GuyMuse said...

Milton,

LOL...loved what you wrote! Yes, we are definitely ready for a furlough (STAS), but have pretty much decided to wait till Summer '08 to go back. We usually try to furlough somewhere in the Dallas-Ft.Worth area, depending upon which church has available housing! My wife and son may go this summer for a short trip. Her parents are not doing well and she feels the need to be with them. Our son will probably stay with my parents in S. Texas and get a summer job and practice his driving with his grandpa. I can't take the stress of teaching him stick shift here! :)

Thanks for your prayers. They are always much appreciated. Tell your wife to eat a frito for us :)

EL OJO PROTESTANTE said...

Mi respeto y admiración a quienes como Usted dejan su lugar para predicar el Evangelio de Cristo.
Mi abuelo fue un inmigrante, y también un misionero, y en sus historias pude sentir las vivencias del desarraigo, solo posibles de sostener por el amor `a´ y `de´ Cristo.
Jajá... "Gringo", así solían llamarlo a mi abuelo.
Christ is Risen!

GuyMuse said...

Daniel,

Es interesante saber que su abuelo también llegó a la Argentina como inmigrante-misionero. ¿De qué país vino? Hace poco llegó aquí a Guayaquil un compañero suyo de BA de nombre Gabriel Cantaro. ¿Lo conoces? Es un hermano Bautista de su tierra que está trabajando en el área de la educación teológica con la convención. La semana pasada me llamó como a las 11pm desde su celular para pedirme socorro (larga historia.) Había subido a la pared de la casa y no podía bajar. Así que con mi hijo fuimos para rescatar al misionero Argentino! :)

Paul Burleson said...

Alright guys...watch this "tongues" thing. :)

GuyMuse said...

Paul,

Everyone knows the 'tongues thing' you refer to will be THE language of Heaven, so you'd better get with it and learn what the majority in Heaven will be speaking! :)

Gary Snowden said...

Guy & Paul,

I remember hearing Justice Anderson share in chapel once at SWBTS that Spanish is definitely the language of heaven. He paused for just a minute and gave the punch line, "Because it takes an eternity to learn it."

EL OJO PROTESTANTE said...

Saludos Guy
Mi abuelo vino de Rusia. Pero tengo una idea. Le paso el link que reseña muy brevemente los aspectos fundamentales de su obra pastoral:
http://biografas.blogspot.com/2006/09/ignacio-daeiluk_28.html
Un abrazo
P.S. No tuve el gusto de conocer a Gabriel Cantaro. Quizá se deba a que por aquí la obra bautista es muy extensa.

GuyMuse said...

Gary,

:) - Loved it! We visited with Justice Anderson several times on our last furlough, and even went to a prayer meeting at their house to pray for missionaries around the world. It was a very meaningful time.

Daniel,

Gracias por el link. Lo revisare mas luego. Gary (arriba) fue un misionero Bautista en Argentina y enseño en el Seminario Teológico Bautista allí en BA.

Alan Cross said...

Great post, Guy. I agree with you on almost all of these things. As I have travelled abroad, I have no doubt that the U.S. is the greatest nation on earth. Yet, when stepping into what God has for me overseas, I feel that I could leave her tomorrow and never look back. I know that I would miss many things, especially the values. People who criticize values in America need to travel overseas to appreciate how blessed we are.

Great post.

bryan riley said...

How do we get you a case of DP?

Even just coming to England, where you wouldn't think would be that many issues or cultural differences, presents quite a difference.

For Larry Who, this doesn't even speak to the issue of leaving homes, pets, grandparents, friends, safe drinking water, if you have kids, soccer season, baseball season, missing the NCAA March Madness, etc. and etc.

GuyMuse said...

Alan,

Values are what defines us as a nation and people. It's not that our values are superior to values of other nations, it is just that values N. Americans hold are things that I also value and miss.

Bryan,

Thanks for the DP offer, but the hassle of getting it to us, and then getting it out of customs with all that is involved is just not worth the effort it takes. In our case, what happens is that one finds substitute items that can take the place of those things one misses. For example, there is a cola drink here called "Pony" that is really very good. It has become my substitute for DP.

Paola said...

Guido,

Me he reido y sonreido con tus comentarios. Interesantes y muy ciertos. Estando del otro lado de la moneda, por el contrario veo lo que aca en EEUU hay y como tu dices la gente no lo aprecia. Recuerdo hace 8 anios que tuve que parar porque no podia aguantar la risa, de ver como la gente para y toma turnos en una calle de 4 pares. O sea en 4 way stop. No lo podia creer!!!! Aun me acuerdo y me rio, porque en America Latina esto no es una costumbre que se practica.

La variedad de las tiendas y super mercados es impresionante, al principio cuesta creer que haya tanta variedad, es verdad, pero como todo uno se acostumbra a comprar las marcas que uno va descubriendo con el tiempo son mejores y del gusto de la familia.

Sin duda alguna lo que mas aprecio de tu bello pais, es la seguridad, Aunque yo fui asaltada y robada una vez hace casi 3 anios, no hay el temor constante que uno si tiene en nuestros paises latinos por el alto nivel de criminilidad.
Estaba super impactada de la cantidad de patrulleros y policias que llegaron despues del asalto a la velocidad del rayo. Y pues el carro aparecio casi a los 3 meses, e intacto!!! no le faltaba ni el car seat que estaba en el asiento trasero!.

Pero al igual que tu, quienes vivimos fuera de nuestro pais de origen. Anoramos la familia, los amigos, las comidas tipicas, los lugares autoctonos, las reuniones familiares, los papas, y tantas cosas que uno deja cuando vive fuera....Sin embargo lo mas importante creo yo, es estar donde Dios quiere que uno este. No importa si es el rincon mas lejos del mundo, la voluntad de Dios es siempre perfecta, y la mejor para nosotros.

Yo siempre le doy gracias a Dios por siervos como uds,que son de bendicion para muchos y que sacrifican tanto porque otros conozcan de Cristo. Tambien nosotros oramos permanentemente para mantenernos en su voluntad. Les recordamos en nuestras oraciones. Que Dios les continue cuidando y bendiciendo!

En su amor,

Paola Fachisthers

Carmel said...

Keep up the good work.