Half-burned matches lying on kitchen counters!
You have to read this article: Weird habits developed after living abroad | Matador Network in its entirety, but this was one of the most hilarious images to me. I’ve seen the same thing, and had exactly the same reaction!
When I visited the home of my husband’s family in Africa, half-burned matches were a common sight. Needless to say, it’s not safe to have pyrophobia there.
And after reading Linda Golden’s reflection after two years of living in Togo, my husband and I laughed loud and long together. It’s all so true!
Thanks so much, Linda, for sharing this with us. I’ve always found it hard to answer the “What’s it like?” question people throw at me after coming back from my husband’s homeland.
Things are so different you don’t know where to start. And yet, after being there, these differences become so normal you no longer notice them.
I’ll go through the categories Linda listed as being notably different:
Linda mentions killing a scorpion with her running shoe and having toads hop on her during midnight latrine visits. While my bug stories are far less dramatic, I took a photo (above) of the many critters running around the place when I was in Africa. They’re everywhere!
I just couldn’t be as squeamish of bugs in Africa as I usually am in the U.S., because if I were I would never have ventured out of the plane. You can’t avoid them. They’re inside and outside, on your bathroom walls and even in your bed.
(My husband was the official mosquito sentry every night, swatting the headboard and even inspecting the sheets before he pronounced the bed clean. And the American mosquito pales in comparison to the African one. I couldn’t even kill one, they were so fast.)
In the U.S. people think nothing of hauling two (or more) huge trash bags to the curb every week and having it magically disappear. It’s just not the same overseas. Linda mentions having to burn her trash and composting her food waste (something my husband is extremely familiar with).
One thing that puzzled me when we first got married was how my husband would save even the backs of envelopes instead of throwing them away. He would scrawl math problems, phone numbers, to-do lists, Bible verses, etc., on these scraps of paper until every inch of white space had been covered. Talk about recycling!
I have a strange, new relationship with water, the source of many, variegated troubles (giardia, amoebas, diarrhea, guinea worm, schistosomiasis, dysentery, cholera, dehydration), most of which involve lots of time hanging out near a toilet.
So Linda concludes after two years in Togo. I used to wonder why my husband was so conscientious about boiling water, cleaning up spills and avoiding puddles (even in the United States) until I went abroad. Ha ha! Then I also learned in a hurry why water can be one of the most dangerous substances on the planet. 😛
Have any of you traveled abroad? If so, could you relate to any of these scenarios?