Staff Corner: From the remote desk of Cara Simon
Current location: New York, USA
Michelle’s question to Cara:
Name three quirky things that your top three countries do differently to how you grew up. (e.g. Many Irish houses use(d) the immersion to heat water.)
I love this question! The following aren’t necessarily my top three countries, but they are countries I’ve lived or spent time in and have noticed significant differences from upstate New York where I grew up.
Country # 1 – Ireland
I might as well start with Ireland, since you brought it up, Michelle. I have never had to use oil for anything outside of maybe my car. So our home in Ireland requires oil to heat the house and the water. Imagine the frustration of wanting to take a hot bath or wash dishes and having to wait an hour for water to heat up! I definitely had a bit of a tantrum with that one. I laugh now (well, most of the time) but in the early days, not so much.
Another difference for me in Ireland are the fireplaces. I love open fires; there really is nothing like it. The crackle, the smell, the glow… especially campfires, it’s my happy place. In New York I grew up with a gas fire (I know, very sad), but in Ireland, they use two things which were new to me, coal and peat I have never seen coal used in a fire… and that is pretty common here, along with peat from bogs.
Country #2 – Honduras
While there were a lot of everyday life differences in Copan Ruinas, where I lived, I remember two distinctly. One was that everyone in Copan knew everyone. It was such a small community of locals, and also quite a few expats who owned some of local businesses, that being someone from out of town, and not Copaneca or Honduraninan meant that everyone knew who you were, even if you didn’t know them. That was a bit of a difference for me, as where I grew up, I could go days without seeing anyone I knew.
The other thing that we used to do is put chips (crisps), bread or anything that would go stale quickly, in the refrigerator. Apparently that kept it fresher with the humidity. It actually seemed to work too, so here’s a life tip – if it’s humid, put all food in the fridge.
Photo of Honduras
Country #3 – Myanmar (Burma)
Once I met an Aussie/Burmese woman at a meditation retreat in Melbourne, Australia and after a few months of maintaining a friendship, she invited me to visit her family in Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar, as well as her other family living across the Yangon River in a rural village.
So, when I say rural, it took 1.5 hours on the back of a dirt bike over the river on back roads to get there. There was one light bulb in the area where we stayed, and there was no shop nearby or way to get food outside what you grew yourself or had running around you.
As westerners, especially for our visit they built us our own tent area for the three of us, complete with a bed and table to dine at, which was so kind. I’m not entirely sure how this all transpired, but it was cozy. Plus, they made us our own bathroom with a toilet seat. It was more like a glorified porta pottie, but did the job… I don’t mind latrines, but having a proper seat makes life a bit easier.
The stove/oven was also very different to me. The women were the ones to cook in this village, and they squat for hours in a little hut over the fire. It was a small wood fire with a small grate on it, and they worked their magic with every meal. It was not anything like I had seen before, and I was so impressed by the amount of effort it must have taken to prepare meals (i.e. catching the chicken for dinner), as they spent long hours cooking for us, their guests.
This was one of my most favorite trips to date; I learned so much about life outside the USA, and also about myself.