I spent a summer in South East China during college with one of my best friends. Mostly we were there loving on folks, building relationships and talking about Jesus. And one of the things about China is that there was a whole lot of different. Like, for instance, the food- I may or may not have seen a small bird- beak and all, served up on my plate one afternoon. Our mantra became, "Different... Not bad... Just different." We coached ourselves through that thought process, literally... because mostly, it did feel at least a little bad to have a whole fried bird on your plate, or to be squatting over a porcelain basin when you have diarrhea (sorry mom). I'm sure Melinda has many more stories about the many many times we rehearsed the "Different... Not bad" speech.
And so, I present to you the "Different... Not bad... Just different" List of our experience thus far in California. And by that I mean, seriously, this place is different... not bad... just different.
For starters California is super green, as in earth conscious, eco friendly, slightly granola. Which fleshes out in a couple different ways. So, at the grocery store, you bring your own bags. At every store, you bring your own bags. To the mall, you bring your own bags. Or you pay for the store's paper sacks, a disapproving look from the cashier, and a guilty conscience. And on Sunday nights, when you take your garbage to the curb, you wheel your giant recycling container to the curb (Oklahomans, It's the size of Big Blue)... along with your tiny-I-can-hold-two-kitchen-trash-bags garbage can. Needless to say, I've been researching what can be recycled (pretty much everything except for pizza boxes and bubble wrap) and what goes in the trash can (basically nothing except for disposable diapers). I feel the earth smiling at me already!
Toddlers & the HOV Lane
There is this amazing thing called the HOV lane: High Occupancy Vehicle. If your car has two or more people you get to go the speed limit, while the rest of the world gets to go 30 miles under the speed limit. And yes, toddlers in car seats count as whole occupants. Babies in the womb do not.
There is something of an unspoken common courtesy here. When you enter someone's house, kindly remove your shoes. We first ran into this when we were looking at rent houses, many of the owners asked us to take our shoes off. I thought it was because the house was being shown and they didn't want it dirtied up. A few weeks later we went to a small office party. It wasn't crazy fancy, but people were dressed up: skirts and scarves and nylons and heels and such. Except the heels were all left at the door, along with about 15 other pairs of shoes. Since then, most homes we have visited have shoes pilled up near the front door. I will keep my toenails painted from here on out.
Our mail person here is a Sikh, who wears a turban and a long, traditional beard. We live in a neighborhood where mail is delivered to the door, and so we have the chance to meet most afternoons around 3pm. He is really friendly, but has thus far not been able to find most of our mail from our old address. Our mailman in Edmond did not wear a turban.
Silicon Vally is a mishmash of many cultures. We've been at the park, surrounded by families and have not heard a single English conversation. Mostly I think I'm hearing French, Mandarin, and Arabic... but I'm sure I'm guessing, because I don't know any of those languages. All that diversity leads to some interesting park protocol. Such as: if my child takes one of your child's toys, I'll give you one of ours. And if my child is eating a bit of orange near your child, I will give your child some orange too. (I found out O liked oranges that way!) Seriously, the park-families have been so friendly. The pull a stroller right up next to you and pick up conversation like we've known each other for a while. Although, the conversation dies pretty quickly considering the language barrier...
I'll be honest. California is different. Not bad. Just different than Oklahoma. And we are loving and learning to love the place where we are dwelling.