I visited America for two weeks two years ago, and still one of the most prominent – and thought provoking – realisations about it, is baby carrots are WEIRD.
The first time I saw baby carrots my brain stuttered, stalled, and refused to move on from the peculiarity of them. Are they grown just to that size then harvested? Are they big carrots just shaved down to size? How do you pick them? Are they peeled? How many tonnes of carrots are made into baby carrots? I’ve since investigated (answers being: no; kind of; up in little bags at the supermarket; yes; and, over 172 million tonnes a year), and you know what? Baby carrots are STILL weird.
I’m thinking it’s because I’m Australian. Baby carrots aren’t available in Australia. The closest I’ve seen here to the handily packed and washed US variety are tinned carrots, which are soft zeppelins compared to the crisp Nano-technology of baby carrots. Somehow, baby carrots became the ultimate indicator of how far from home I was.
I’d prepared my boys and I for the trip in all sorts of ways: shifted our sleep patterns a week beforehand to avoid jet lag (moderately successful); packed a huge chunk of luggage with Aussie foods (TimTams, Vegemite, Weetbix, Minties and Chico Babies); tried to remember what a dime was worth and the percentage I was meant to tip a waitress.
But as soon as the ATM in LAX spat out paper money (paper!), I reverted back to being a kid at my first time to a circus. The money all looked the same! (Australian money certainly doesn’t). The brain-frying, thigh-cramping experience of driving on the wrong side of the road was breathtaking. Snow on the mountains in Summer. Lollies (candy) being thrown at a neighbourhood 4th of July parade. The bafflingly low fruit and vegetable prices, and the cacophony of the cereal aisle! So many accents and new architecture and language nuance. The bliss of so many peanut butter flavoured foods – I was a long, long way from home.
Then there were the conversations which skittered and side-tracked to allow for clarification or explanation. Asking Michelle if she’d seen “my sunnies” (sunglasses) or my boys asking if there was a “bubbler” when we were at a park. (That’s “water fountain” in Australian). Laughing at other’s attempts at an “Australian accent” (hint: there isn’t one, American’s have the accents). The realisation of how differently sunburn is accepted between countries. Then the (far too short) comparisons and discussions of health care, politics, gun laws, education and all the ways of things which seem normal to us but fascinating/horrifying/confusing to those from – sometimes – literally the other side of the planet.
In some ways the US seemed remarkably like Australia, and in others as bizarre and alien as any planet in the Alpha Centuri system. I loved my time in the US. It wasn’t nearly long enough for the amount I wanted to learn, absorb, for the people I wanted to
interrogate get to know, the things I wanted to do and see and experience. And that’s just in one country, which internationally is seen as quite similar to Australia, yet is so different in a million myriad ways to what I am familiar with. I want to go back, revisit some places, explore new ones, have more (deeper/weird/funny/baffling/challenging/enriching) conversations with the same people, and again with as yet unmet friends.
And I would really like another bag of those weird little carrots.
Have you ever visited somewhere and realised you were in some – or all – ways, a long way from home? What has made you think differently about where you live, or how others live? Is there somewhere you would love to visit/again?