The number one question this holiday season on everyone’s lips that I met was, “What’s the biggest difference now that you are back?” Is it the choices of food, the language, the culture, people?
None of the above. What is the biggest difference to me, and the one that keeps coming back, is the difference between what I see and others see as a BIG PROBLEM!
I got back to America on the 13th of December, just in time for everyone to freak out about what gift to buy for their loved ones. I would go into town and walk around, trying to visualize what someone I had seen days before would take this as. As I had been in Delhi, it wasn’t hard for them to imagine it. Then I put it into other countries I’d been to in the last few years. This lead me to think about the biggest difference in me now.
Here is the example. In December in Tajikistan most rural areas live without power. Power output is cut off to most of Tajikistan so that it can be sold to Afghanistan, therefore generators are installed in almost every house and office. If they didn’t they would not be able to do much after the sun went down, which is earlier than you really think about in lit metropolises. These generators are usually in the bathrooms of the houses as it’s the least used room, and generators produce a strong smell.
When I was in Tajikistan I met this nice guy, Ahmed, who had a melon patch, my friend and I went with him to his melon patch at 9 at night and until midnight ate melons till I felt like I was going to explode. The year before Ahmed’s brother, who was also my new friend’s best friend, got married in December. According to what my friend said, the day after the wedding, Ahmed called him crying. The night before Ahmed’s brother had gone into the bathroom to take a bath. Within the 20 minuets after he went in there until his new wife (literally a few hours old marriage) went in, he had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The first time I heard this story I was horrified. The new wife discovering her now dead husband, dying in a bathtub, lack of power for months at a time for most of the population, all horrible, but the worst part was this is a tale that was so common to my new friend that he told it as if he were describing how his dog died. Sad yes, but it happens, it’s better to move on. So when I saw kids crying for $300 toys, or parents cursing (and I mean sailor type language) because their cell phones internet would not work, I couldn’t help but think: But we have power. We have food in stores, our friends don’t die by accident of carbon monoxide poisoning.
And I was honestly thankful for all of those things. So to answer everyone’s question what is the biggest difference now that I’m back it would be this: I am far more thankful of things than I was before. Whether its lights on the street. Sunshine in January. The Ocean. Cars that don’t make my lungs scream if I walk next to them. Foods from around the world. Safety standards taken seriously. Education for all. A refrigerator. Easy internet access. A toilet. A toilet that flushes. Running water. HOT RUNNING WATER!! Roads that are maintained. Fresh drinkable water from the tap. Free Public toilets. Electricity! The fact that most people wont ever have to leave their home area for months, years, decades even, just to make enough for their families to live. (though that last one is a bit hard to do even in the US I realize.)
If you’ve never experienced the lack I know its hard to be full heartedly thankful for them. But I’ve seen the lack, experienced some of them, and so now I am really thankful. That’s what the biggest difference is.