A friend recently remarked to me: “I have no idea how you prepare to go back.” She wondered how I knew what I needed, how much I needed to buy, how was it all packed?
I informed her that I have a List.
When David saw the List recently, he remarked: “That’s not a list. That’s a mind map.” True enough.
The whole summer, the List hangs over me like a swarm of Georgia gnats that I just can’t get away from. I know I need to do the shopping, yet I dread it.
Here’s what usually happens (fellow expats, tell me if this happens to you, too). When I’m in Indonesia, I think of things that I need or would like to have. So I start the List. As the time for our departure for the U.S. nears, the List grows, usually into multiple pages and categories. Items include the usual: sunscreen, new swim gear, grits, spices, pepperoni, gifts for the kids, clothes.
Then, when I get to America and I make that initial trip to Wal-Mart or Target, I get Shopper’s Paralysis. The sticker shock, the options available, and the sheer size of most American stores do me in. Did you know the average woman is now faced with a staggering number of choices when it comes to underwear? I was in Crisis Mode in the underwear department of Target. Unable to decide, I finally just closed my eyes and grabbed some.
There’s also the size and weight of items to consider. “Will it fit in a suitcase? And how will it survive baggage handlers?” I ask myself as I size up a possible purchase.
Overwhelmed by the variety, prices, and size of things I start to talk myself out of whatever purchases Indonesian Natalie had convinced herself she needed. “Do you really need pecans, face lotion, lunch containers, etc” I ask myself, as I wander the store aisles. Most of my list will eventually be bought, but some things (an iced tea dispenser, a zipline, my Complete Works of Shakespeare that I try to bring back every time) won’t be making the cut.
Then there are those items that are not on the List, but I see it in the store and convince myself I must have it. Impulsive Purchase #1: A beeswax candle that melts and becomes lotion. It’s heavy AND breakable. What was I thinking?!
|The List leads to the Pile|
I have been tempted to say, forget the List. Just go to America, enjoy it while you’re there, and when you get back to Indonesia, just make do with what you can get there. And I could do that, and be just fine. But as you can see from the number of items checked off the List, I haven’t taken that step yet. Maybe next trip.