The lunar new year that I do not celebrate came and went last week. Apart from a fellow visiting student hailing from South Korea, the only people in my universe aware of it were, of course, my parents. My dad even offered to buy me a round-trip ticket, which was a diabetically sweet gesture, but my hands were tied; or rather, my books are physically bound to the library reading rooms. (I know I’ve thrown out quite a few previews that are yet to come, but do stay tuned for how and why I’m the no-fun pedant who commits the unpardonable sin of not traveling during term time while studying abroad.)
In compensation (more to her than me, to be fair), my mother asked what I’d like in a care package. Since edibles are automatically out of the picture – how dearly do I pine for you, Ethiopian joints in Adams Morgan – I thought long and hard for what I truly miss about the US that cannot be found here.
Thanks to globalization and capitalism, it inevitably boils down to the intangible, the cultural. Jumbo-sized serving portions, for a start. Each time I manage to overcome the last ounce of dignity I have left in me and ask her to slather on maybe just a teensy bit more cabbage on my plate, the Polish lady working at hall would pause in theatrical solemnity, ‘Are you sure? I charge you for two entrees, then.’ Mad respect goes out to Nietzsche, who is so spot on about the eternal return it’s achingly humbling. And beautiful.
Now that we’ve addressed gluttony, might as well admit sloth. The thickest article of clothing I brought has been sitting in my suitcase and will remain there until I leave this country, because it is a cashmere hoodie, emphasis on the non-modifying noun. Not that everyone is impeccably dressed here 24/7, but it takes some chutzpah to break out a hoodie in a phalanx of skirts and leather tights. (On that note, I've been to Shabbat here, twice! Although 95% of the attendees were American, naturally.)
But these are minor annoyances I’ve somehow outgrown, anyway. It is not like I have an American-shaped lacuna in my life, because, again, globalization and capitalism: Whole Foods is in London; Madewell is online. I still watch Real Time with Bill Maher religiously, as real as HBO-Go gets, and have fallen even deeper in love with NPR podcasts that I didn’t think was humanly possible for anyone who’s not a soccer mom in a volvo cruising around white suburbia. In short, problems that can be solved aren’t really problems; the good things in life money cannot buy.