Seward, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, March 20, 2017

One of the best things about coming home was not having the awkwardness after someone sneezes. Most other countries do not acknowledge a sneeze. I tried to be conscious of greetings and pleasantries because it is different in every country. Plus Malaysia's national religion is Islam. I also remember my former grad assistant, Wang telling us that when he first came to SFU, he would try not to sneeze in public because people would say "bless you" and he didn't know how to respond or what to do. He held in his sneezes for a long time and finally felt comfortable and understood the exchange that happened. By the time he graduated, he was telling us, "bless you".

I knew I was in the Middle East when I stepped into the airport terminal. The smell gave it away. In my experience, students from the Middle East wear a lot of cologne and the airport had so many scent shops! I could have a migraine in less than 5 minutes here.

Never let language stop you from traveling. Everyone speaks English. Helpful to know a few phrases but not necessary. High school language teachers everywhere cringe at the thought. It was especially easy in Malaysia. Everyone there that I encountered spoke English well. In Vietnam, I didn't have too much trouble but there were less people fluent in English.

I bought Arden and Jonas Kinder Eggs. They aren't sold in the U.S. because they are a choking hazard. It is an egg with chocolate and a toy. Kinder is a popular brand of candy overseas.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I have to apologize for the frequent switch between past and present tense. One day I will go back and edit the posts. Writing this also thinking of Jackie Cavanaug, high school English teacher. Now and anytime I write free form, I think of what she would say. To paraphrase: "'Thing' is a weak word. Choose another or better word." Wonder if she thought that would be something that stuck with me over 20 years. That and I am still upset that I got a B on my senior critical paper about The Three Musketeers.

I was most excited to return home for:

1. Ice water

2. Personal space

3. Cold water from the tap

4. American breakfast

The biggest lesson I learned was:

From country to country, we are so similar. I really expected to find more differences but the people were friendly, helpful, filled with pride of their country, and excited to share their culture.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel to a distant land. Malaysia and Vietnam were not on my bucket list for travel but that makes me all the more thankful for the chance to visit them. I made good connections with other tour counselors and met many kind and generous people from around the world. This trip gave me my first stamp in my passport and hopefully not the last!