People who can’t stay with me.

The recent blog post “people who can’t travel with me” from Ciao Chicago had me dying of laughter and also shedding baby travel tears because it was so true. How often have I not been able to articulate my lack of willingness to travel with certain people or groups for one of those very reasons? I felt guilty or perhaps just plain naive about the shortcomings of some travel companions and I kept my mouth shut while they ruined my trip. Oh… well, no more guilt is the new black. This got me thinking about other travel experiences I’ve had that require a list of ground rules. So, let’s talk about houseguests.

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5. No shirt, no shoes, no service.  Well, not exactly, but you can’t just walk around my house bearing all sorts of skin that makes no sense for our actual relationship or your actual attributes. Case: We recently had a houseguest who proceeded to iron his clothing bare-chested in a common room every time he wanted to go out. So, this means man boob first thing in the morning and before heading out at night, multiple times over his stay, all over my house. I’m like, you’re too comfortable, dude. Oh and in a similar vein, know when to cover your feet, depending on how they look and smell. Again, let’s not find out that we’re really not friends during an overshare experience. Shoes (that aren’t tracking mud or dirt through the house) are acceptable and socks will do when shoes don’t. Again, I’m all for “make yourself comfortable” hospitality, but depending on how close we are (or aren’t) and some basics on aesthetic, one guest’s comfort is another host’s cringe.

4. Food etiquette. First things first, there’s no pork in my house. No joke, f’real though. I’ll throw that isht out. Don’t get me started on how much it grosses me out, but seriously, ahhh don’t do it. But, beyond pork, I think it only makes sense to organize the food situation upfront, esp. if guests don’t have a car. Case: We recently had houseguests who waxed poetic about going to the supermarket to get food early on in their stay, but never actually went. This is fine because I actually know how difficult it is to get to the supermarket and I planned accordingly for their food situation by buying lots of food, b/c they’re tourists – they don’t know that they don’t know anything. However, this led to some awkward moments when they showed up from a day trip starving, without transportation, were too scared to ask to eat something in the kitchen, but wanted to hitch hike to a restaurant at midnight that I had to politely inform them was actually closed. Mind you, I had all this food in the house that I clearly bought for them (I don’t eat chicken!) and they’re trying to be below the Mason Dixon-style polite, which is at cross purposes with the human need to eat. It was ridiculous. Listen, if I don’t want you to eat food in my house, trust me, you won’t be invited to my house. Would it be nice if you contributed to the food purchase or went to the market to get things you’d like to eat or told me your food plans beforehand? Yes, but being weird about eating and not eating leads to awkward silences three times a day, for the entire length of one’s stay.  I need guests that knock that right out at the beginning, eat out or in or cook or whatever, but every meal shouldn’t feel like a hostage negotiation.

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3. Shadow. I’ve been this guest, so I know how easy it is to become. I’ve had this guest, so I know how annoying it can become. This situation occurs when a host thinks you’ve come to visit their city, but a guest thinks they’ve come to visit the host – things get weird. In the interest of full disclosure: I like my personal space and I’m easily suffocated.  I vet my companion lists with scrutiny for each activity presented and if I don’t say ‘the more the merrier,’ it’s not something to be inferred. I’ve had guests who take the ‘I’ll just do whatever you normally do‘ approach and since I don’t normally have a human shadow as I walk around my house in a robe, this methodology quickly falls apart. There is way too much pressure to make my boring daily life touristy and/or entertaining. And again, there are times when the guest really isn’t invited, but there’s a song and dance about leaving them behind so they can go see the sites (which they don’t really want to see alone or they don’t know how to get to) and they look like a sick puppy as you drive away to personal-space-freedom-land. Sigh. Being invited into my home doesn’t inherently mean being invited into every aspect of my life. Just sayin…

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2. Germophobe scaredy cat. Don’t act like you’ve never seen a roach before. You have. Don’t act like you’ve never killed one before. You have. Don’t act all brand new in my house. I’ve never lived in any place that’s actually clean and has undeniably, safe, potable drinking water. So get over yourself.  While I’m always profusely embarrassed & grossed out when something undesirable creeps in, I can’t help but feel like a grown adult human being should be able to take this in stride. Case: Mozambique is generally clean hygiene wise, but the sewer systems are pretty basic and close to residential areas. Trash pick up isn’t regular. And for some reason, which I’ll blame on the location of our house near a hilly, wooded area, there are huge cockroaches that end up in our house despite having a maid 4 days a week and putting down bait. Mah dude, I’ma need you to just kill it and move on. Why? Because you came to visit me in Southern Africa… or North India… or DC… or NYC… and you know what those places all have in common? They’re on earth, a planet which humans share with roaches, spiders, mice, frogs, lizards, and other things that are small and slimy or gross.  If you want to visit some place that’s spick and span, maybe try some city I’ve never lived in. Or try a town that’s been sterilized just for your visit. Even Disney had a kid get eaten by an alligator… you can’t control ALL the elements. If a cockroach freaks you out, you probably shouldn’t leave your house – ever – and you definitely shouldn’t come to mine.

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1. My dog lives here. I have a dog. He’s crazy and loud, but he’s mine. I can’t un-own him for visitors’ sake. But, I think some people underestimate their dislike for pets and rather than just say that they’d rather stay in a hotel, they try to control my dog – in his own house. I used to pander to that, but I’m over it. He’s going to jump on you when you walk in the house. He will definitely bark at you. He may try to sit in your lap. Why? Well, because he’s a dog. Poorly trained and all, he still lives here and you don’t. So, we have to get real. If you’re not into pets, then you don’t have to interact with him, but I’m not going to guarantee that he won’t interact with you. Repeat: He’s an animal. Second repeat: He lives here. At this point, folks who don’t like dogs or my dog are totally respected by me to the fullest. I was once one of you. I get it. But, at the same time, you probably shouldn’t stay with me, for obvious reasons.

The end.

This American Life…

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When life hands me lemons – I’m known for making damn good mojitos! So, I’m confident that my re-Americanization process will get progressively easier with time. Unfortunately, though, if you’ve been around me for the past few weeks, you know that I’m still muddling through and highly likely to make a fool of myself along the way. But, such is this girl’s American life. What can you do but admit that being Carmen Sandiego is not as easy or as glamourous as it seems? Below is a list of the top 5 issues I’m coping with since being back in America:

Homeless#5 – I’m homeless: Some people don’t realize that my moving a lot really means that I have no home. I am like a college student on summer vacation. All my mail goes to my mama’s house, so everybody thinks I still “live” there. But, let me debunk that myth. I sleep in my old room. Too bad for me, my mother isn’t one of those nurturer-for-life types. “My room” is actually a library/ guest bedroom now. She converted it when I moved to D.C. I think she spoke some vile rumor into existence when she said, “you’re an adult now” and charged full speed ahead with her conversion plans. To make matters worse, I have no car. My dog and my brother’s dog are not aware that they are, in fact, cousins. Sigh. I’m thankful to have a roof over my head, because I have friends who are forced to stay in hotels for months. But, sheesh, I sure do want a home!

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#4 – It’s cold outside! I haven’t experienced a real winter in two whole American years. I came back and had to grab an old tattered coat that hasn’t been cleaned since the first Obama presidency. Not only am I homeless, but I look it too.

#3 – Food is ‘authentic.’ Yes, authentic tasting food is a real thing. I forgot that. In India, ‘good food’ is usually well intentioned fusion, pan-Asian food or homemade Indian. The two Delhi exceptions are Culinaire for Thai and Diva at the Italian Cultural Centre. Everything outside of that tends to be just shoulder shrug quality or deathly expensive. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my Haitian fried red snapper, my Chinese pan-fried dumplings, and Senegalese Thiéboudienne. My tastebuds sing America!

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#2 – Things make sense. I often tell people about the pedestrian crosswalks (a.k.a zebra crossings) near my job would actually end either in a ditch 3 feet deep or a median 3 feet high. These public works efforts were really just death traps. You’ll now understand why I’m typically very suspicious of anything that’s intended to be helpful. I know it’s backward. Since I’ve been back in the U.S., however, I have let my guard down. The little white walking man comes up when it’s safe to walk. The red hand pops up when it’s not. I appreciate putting my brain on autopilot and letting my legs do all the work.

Black is Beautiful Tee#1 – I see BLACK PEOPLENow this is complicated. Complicated, yet refreshing. Let me explain. I went to India expecting to blend in. Somewhere in those 50 shades of brown, I thought I would be safely absorbed. Instead, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was reminded, early and often, that I am Black! Not brown, not African, not Indian – Black. So, I got used to being one of a handful. There were just a few of us “Black people” in town and we were thick as thieves. Can you imagine being a minority within a minority? Ohhh chile’! Sometimes I just wanted to curl up on the couch with a tall glass of purple drank and watch “Cornbread, Earl & Me,” followed by a matinee of “Juice.” Now, those days are long gone. I’m walking down the mean streets of urban America and I’m surrounded by a sea of young, gifted Blacks – many of whom are sipping from tall bottles of Fiji water! I sure am proud to be just another face in this crowd.

Ohhhhh America…thanks for the warm welcome!