Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Living overseas for many years breeds some quirky hankerings and habits. I've known folks who want nothing more than to get a box of Kraft Mac 'n'Cheese - -and they never ate it before, nor would really want to eat it again. There were times in Tokyo when we actually paid some absurd sum of money for a can of Manwich. Yes, Manwich. Sloppy-joe in a can has some weird appeal when it is as expensive as kobe beef and not nearly as accessible. I developed an odd yearning for things like Almond Joys, a desire to read The National Enquirer and a real jones for Hellman's mayo.

Notwithstanding anything else to read in English, I once paid 2,000 yen ($20) to buy a Readers Digest. It was at that point that George informed me that we just couldn't continue to afford my "magazine habit." One Readers Digest was unquestionably the first baby-step on a slippery slope to paying a king's ransom to having People Magazine delivered to me no matter what country I was in. Oddly, George ended up being right. I stopped buying R.D. in Tokyo, but I did continue to pay extravagantly to have People sent to me. It was crack. Crack in bite-sized US pop culture nuggets.

Expatriates also often suffer minor personality disorders associated with hording. We make lists before we travel back to the US, and can often be found with more than 10 boxes of Special K in our pantries. Tuna, flour, the aforementioned Mayo and red licorice were always found in copious amounts in my own cupboard. The other thing we always had were drugs. Lots of modern pharmaceuticals.

Sudafed, Motrin, baby aspirin, Advil, Milk of Magnesia, stuff to clog and other stuff to unclog - - the whole nine yards. Take a stroll through your neighborhood pharmacy, think of the things that you could possibly use in a year and imagine buying some of each to stock your own mini-Walgreens. God forbid you had to treat some ailment with Japanese or German medicine. Not a real confidence builder.

Tonight I decided to finally take some medicine to clear up the the copious amounts of snot inside my face. I trip up the stairs to get me some drugs in my own little pharmacy. But, you know what? I didn't have a single unclogger that didn't expire 12 months ago. Hmmm, one of those sure signs that you are not an expatriate any more, but haven't relearned the necessary life skills to fully adapt to US living. Weirdly, I didn't even think to go out and get something when I discovered the cupboard was bare. It only occurred to me as I was writing this, that there are these fabulously cutting edge places called 24-hour pharmacies in the good old us-of-a. What a concept. Oh, and I still eye those Almond Joys with a sense of awe.

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