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.