A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I talked about whether or not we were homesick, and what, if anything, we missed from the United States (the “who” being a given).
It started when I made a comment about missing something I wished I could have (which usually goes hand-in-hand with an inadvertent failure to be grateful for the present and whatever’s right in front of me). I don’t remember now whether it was avocados, or Ambar, our favorite Balkan restaurant that we frequented on Capitol Hill during our years in DC, or something else. But it was something I was surprised to learn my husband had really enjoyed at the time but didn’t much miss.
During the course of our dinner, it turned out that although we miss our families and friends very much (both of us), and some things a life in the U.S. affords us (especially me, because everyone knows I’m patriotic+++), neither of us are homesick, per se.
I’ve passed eight and a half months at post now (just over one-third of my tour), and last week my husband marked four months here. The longest I’ve ever been continuously outside the U.S. is fourteen months, so I haven’t broken my record yet!
When I think about living here as a diplomat, with a large and comfortable home, important work to do, travel opportunities, and the privileges and accolades that come with diplomatic accreditation, I have to say that for us, the Foreign Service is a fantastic lifestyle. Overall becoming a Foreign Service Officer is everything I dreamed of and more. I don’t love everything about living in Uzbekistan specifically, but I haven’t honestly been homesick here.
Unlike, of course, my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia more than 12 years ago, in which I was blindly, tearfully homesick from almost the moment I arrived in-country. It was absolutely excruciating for me, for months! I was amazed to learn from my fellow volunteers during that same period that they weren’t homesick a bit. I have a long way to go, I remember thinking at the time.
There are things, though, that I miss right now about being in the U.S… a lot! And I’ve lived overseas three times now, which is long enough to know that those places that initially “can’t compare” eventually, too, become places I miss. I have tried hard to incorporate all my favorite parts of each country where I’ve lived into what I take with me. And Uzbekistan will be no exception.
Here are some things (not people) listed in no particular order that I miss about living in the U.S. vis-à-vis Uzbekistan (so far):
- Fast, unlimited internet, and no page blocking.
- Movie theatres that don’t dub.
- Fresh seafood!
- Specialty groceries.
- Real Mexican food on the west coast. And Chipotle, damn the ecoli scare.
- The Chopt’d salad shop, and my favorite Bibimbap place around 19th and L NW.
- Good take-out food. Delivered free, or cheaply, and quickly to my door.
- Inexpensive, quality alcohol. In the same vein, grocery stores that sell alcohol. And liquor. (California, I’m looking at you.) Actually, any Total Wine in VA, even with crap parking.
- Aluminum can recycling.
- Drinking tap water.
- People driving in a (relatively) orderly and predictable manner. Turning lanes. Hell, any properly delineated lanes!
- Drivers slowing down and letting you turn without overtaking on the left.
- Well-paved roads. American freeways. Reliable GPS.
- American small towns in the mid-Atlantic during autumn.
- Knowing that well-equipped trauma centers are nearby.
- Target. MAC. Aveda. Sephora. Clinique. Yankee Candle. Williams-Sonoma. Whole Foods. Harris Teeter. Trader Joe’s. Macy’s. Ann Taylor. Bebe. The Limited. Nordstrom.
- Not having to plan weeks or months in advance to order what I need for myself or to run the household.
- Northern California, just because. And actually all of California.
- Trying on clothes, in a store!
- Mail arriving in 2-3 days.
- Making appointments over the phone without feeling like a moron (i.e. language barrier).
- Going to a tailor / shoe repair shop / beauty salon without feeling like a moron. Or even finding these places.
- The concept of people queuing and waiting their turn.
- Anonymity. No one taking an interest in my activities.
- The concept that 20 is way too young to get married.
- No one questioning my authority because I’m a woman.
Things (not people) that I will miss when I leave Uzbekistan (so far):
- This house with its tall ceilings and lots of space.
- No rent. No mortgage.
- Low cost of living at my salary. And post differential. And hardship pay. Word.
- Consular work at my post.
- Uzbek plov with lamb, raisins, yellow carrots and chickpeas. And hot tea. The end.
- Hot cheap bread for less than a buck.
- Our beautiful embassy.
- Streetlights that flash yellow as a heads-up before turning from red to green.
- The Uzbek sense of patience (except when driving).
- Uzbek trains, clean and modern.
- Uzbek men running to open doors for women.
- The way people put their hand over their heart as an “Excuse me.”
- The colorful money.
- The stark geographical landscape.
- Old Ladas and Volgas from Soviet times that are still on the road.
- Brutalist architecture (I mean it), especially the abandoned factories in my city and buildings that look like concrete spaceships.
- Random cows, goats and wild horses on our street.
- My mail arriving safely.
- The very dry climate.
- Direct flights to Paris, Istanbul, Tokyo, Seoul, Frankfurt, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Doha, and Moscow.
- Armored Suburbans being a normal mode of transport.
- Diplomatic expediting to and from the airport. Nothing better!