Recently I posted about our visit from my mother in law. While we had a wonderful time, there was a pink elephant in the room at most sit down moments and restaurant dinners. And it’s the same topic that comes up often with my parents during video chats and even quick instant message conversations on Facebook or Skype. It’s one I deflect often, push of on Elizabeth usually, and detest always. The dreaded question for most expats – “When are you moving back to the US?”
Trying to answer this prevalent question is equivalent to speaking out about controversial topics like “Why do you choose to homeschool/unschool?” or “Why don’t you eat meat/gluten/candy/American food?” It requires a long winded story with backbone, set reasons and future opportunities that lie outside the continental 48, and above all, anything to distract or change the inquirers train of thought. We’re not moving there or revisiting old stomping grounds, even if a football team comes to Los Angeles, we get excellent Orlando ticket deals for seeing the Theme park extravaganza located within or the combined culinary expertise of Thailand, France, Italy, Korea, India and the whole Asian/European world moves to the US.
My wife is British and grew up in Europe. We tried to move to the UK but ended up relocating ( impermanently) to Thailand. I haven’t revisited the States in some time but we’re considering moving to BC in the future. In the bag of reasons I won’t be calling the States home again is due to food quality. Coming from America, the home of the Genetically Modified meal, the commercial food – that found in %85 of supermarkets across the nation, is the antithesis of ‘good for you’ and nutrition. The conventional food (unorganic) is loaded with chemicals, dyes and ingredients not allowed in most other countries. I also don’t want her seeing aisles of chips and snacks, candy bars and bags, while having to settle with small areas of bagged green produce and stickered fruit from the corporate giants, Dole and Sunkist.
And more than just what’s inside the food, is the sentiment among the populace and how it affects us and how we teach Kaya about what she eats. The lunchroom is a breeding ground for creating customers of the sweet and salty foods ‘traded’ and shared among classmates. We don’t like the idea of having to police her food choices. We have taught her about the issues with the commercialized food products, the dangers of eating too much sweets and the problems with sugar alternatives.
But… she’s 5.
The marketing genius of corporate America has over 100 years of training, re-tooling, adjusting and refining their craft. They know the tricks of the trade – heck they created them!
And bandwagon-ing seems to work the best with the youth. ’All your friends eat this – you should too…’ Schools are full of competition and comparison with what happens in the lunchroom at the forefront. Kids congregate and share pieces of their homelife in the school cafeteria. The meals they pull out of those brown bags or the choices they make in the lunchline dictate their ‘coolness’. And sadly, just as when I was growing up, the food products that pepper television advertising and popular tv shows are the ones that kids identify with. They are the cool items, the ‘wow you have that? – I want to be like you’, things that are the top tier items in lunchroom trading. Kid-perfected advertising and flashy packaging have all the draw – while grapes in a baggie, celery sticks with almond butter in a re-used plastic peanut butter jar, and hummus with pita bread evoke jeers and ridicule.
Here, if sweets are to be had, we head off to the local ‘wet market’ and indulge in some homemade delicacies like mango sticky rice or seek out coconut ice-cream man.