Aight kids, so I’ve been back for two weeks now. My re-entry into society has been an interesting process. I feel like my sister’s cat when we cover her in a towel and take her to a different part of the house. She peeps out of the towel, and what she sees is familiar, and she knows its familiar. But still, she peeps out of the towel cautiously, sits there and looks around for a little while, letting it all soak on. Then maybe she’ll step one foot out of the towel, then look around again, to see if anything changed since the last time she looked around before she set her one foot out of the towel. That cycle of minor entry and massive observation happens over and over again til she’s finally out of the towel. Then she hears a loud noise and runs like hell under the couch…

Okay, so back to the comparison. Running like hell under the couch aside, my re-entry into society here in the states has been a lot like my sister’s cat crawling out of the towel. The morning after I got back, I had to go work. Worthless, I know. But I woke up in the morning, and usually the t-shirt I wear to sleep will go straight to the hamper. Because before I left, I’d wear an old metal t-shirt as an undershirt to work, wear the same shirt to bed, throw it in the hamper in the morning and grab a new metal t-shirt to do the same thing with the next morning. That first morning I was back, I didn’t throw my shirt in the hamper. I threw it on the floor, and I wore the same shirt to bed every night that week, cause I didn’t feel right throwing in the hamper to wash it unless it TOTALLY HAD to be washed, cause I didn’t want to waste the water. I went to the washroom to brush my teeth, and that was pretty much the same. I always turn the faucet off while I’m brushing my teeth, anyway. But this time I kept the pressure on the faucet lower than cranked all the way up like I usually do. I washed my face, and while I was lathering my face up, I turned the faucet off. Dryed up, and put on some of my new clothes from Fab India (hell yea).

Work was sooooo dead. But when I got back to my desk, I just looked around at all the STUFF I had. Stuff. I’ll talk about all my stuff in a little bit. But at work we have a water cooler in the kitchen that I get water from, cause I try to drink a lot of water each day, since it’s fuel for life. Next to the water cooler we have these piles of big disposable Solo cups with nice little airbrushed designs on them that everyone uses—sometimes two at a time—to drink water in. After they’re done, they’ll throw the cup(s) away, and next time they’re at the water cooler they’ll grab new cup(s). It’s okay to use 8 cups a day for 4 glasses of water though, cause when I throw them away in my magical waste basket, Maria the Garbage Fairy comes every night to magically wisk them away to never-never land… So for the few months before I left, I went through these phases where I’d use a ceramic mug instead of the disposable cups cause I was a little conscious of the waste. After coming back from India, I’ve been using my ceramic mug religiously. It’s a nice mug, too. It’s got a picture of a green atom sitting in silouette of a grey a beaker, and forming a circle around the beaker it says ‘Over 15 Years of Uninterrupted Service – Chem-Nuclear Systems, Inc.’ So everyone thinks I’m a hardcore-scientist dude. Also, my lunches I always bring in a plastic bag that I get leftover from grocery shopping. That I still do, but now I don’t throw away the plastic bags at all. I collect them at my desk and take them back home to reuse for future lunches. Also, all the printouts I make I’ve been saving and I’m going to use them as scratch paper. Maybe I could bind them up and use them in my padfolio, too. When I go to the washroom, after washing my hands, I used to use three pieces of paper towels to dry my hands. I’ve found now that after shaking the access water off my hands, I can dry my hands enough with one paper towel. So maybe over the course of doing that over several years I’ll save a tree or two. And of course, I don’t turn the water up all the way when I’m washing my hands. So at work, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of reducing waste I create, and avoiding turning my leftovers into waste. But the mindset I had before I left is screaming at me in the face everyday. Jared, Sachin, and Steve are always using the airbrushed Solo cups for water and tea. The printer is right by my desk and it’s always going off, and when people pick up their printouts, I’m wondering where the paper’s gonna go when they’re done with the information it’s providing. Every Tupperware container in the fridge is wrapped in a plastic bag that probably ends up collected in the garbage cans between 12-1p. Paper shredders are all over my office. Crazy.

So, back to my stuff. I swear I have so much freakin’ stuff. Stuff on my desk, stuff in my room, stuff in my house, stuff in my bag, stuff in my closet, stuff in my garage. It’s all stuff I’ve had forever, and I’m never going to do anything with, but I keep it, ‘just in case.’ I think I’m going to go through all my STUFF and either donate it to people who can actually make use of it (like the marg), or think of something useful I could do with it. We’ll see. But America in general is all about STUFF. Stuff is a status symbol. It screams your place in society, and everyone for some reason wants run to the Appalachians and announce that they’re better off then they actually are, so everyone gets stuff. And gets more stuff to go along with their stuff. And gets new stuff cause they’re current stuff is outdated or obsolete. And gets different stuff cause they’re getting tired of they’re old stuff. And gets the stuff the neighbors got next door cause they can’t have other people having stuff they don’t have, so they gotta get stuff. All they want is their stuff. And it’s THEIR stuff, no one else’s. I’ve decided to reduce my collection of stuff. I know I can’t eliminate stuff altogether, cause our society is built with little substitutes for stuff. But I know I can reduce my stuff tremendously.

Space is an interesting issue I’ve noticed too. I mentioned this in my earlier post, but in the states, space is so clearly defined, and the social rules are kinda strict on breaking and imposing on other people’s space. My house has a fence and a front door that defines its space. My bedroom has walls and a door. My cubicle has walls. Our streets have lanes and social rules that go along with them that say when it’s appropriate to change lanes. Our streets have sidewalks that are pretty strictly used for pedestrians. We have terms like ‘pedestrians’ who have the ‘right of way.’ India’s lines for space are much softer than in the states. Most houses that I saw didn’t have ‘fences’ around their ‘yards.’ Houses were butted up against each other, and it seemed that the space in front of the house was negotiated with your neighbors. Streets had lines, but they weren’t enforced by the same rules we have here, they were much more flexible. Sidewalks were there, but were more used as houses for the homeless and urinals than they were for walking on. So, pedestrians used streets, too. ‘Pedestrians always have the right of way’ doesn’t exist in India. As a driver, if you see a person in the road trying to cross, first you honk your horn as much as you can so he stays out of your way, and then if need be you yell at him out your window to get off the road. So I guess the motto would go ‘pedestrians, get the f**k out of my way.’

Being back in the states, I feel I much more aware of things that the bubble we live under in America provides us to have to think about.