Four Things I Miss From the U.S. (and Four Things I Don’t)


Four things I miss from the U.S.:

1) Dental floss. Don’t make fun, oral hygiene is important. I figured floss would be easy to get here, so I didn’t bring much from the U.S. But I ran out two weeks ago, and despite begging at five different stores, I have yet to find any. It probably doesn’t help that I have no idea what the Tamil word for “floss” is (although I was equally unsuccessful the one time a friend asked for me in Tamil). Meanwhile, I have little chunks of dosa and idly stuck between my back teeth. I can feel the cavities forming.

2) Nyquil. I have a cold, and I need Nyquil. If there is an Indian equivalent, for the love of all things holy, please tell me.

3) Electricity. Look, I’m not one of those wimpy Americans who freaks out when his iphone charge dips below 10%. I lived in a small village in Africa for two years without electricity or cell phone service. So I can live off the grid. But when you choose an apartment because (1) it has a ceiling fan in the bedroom, and (2) it has a giant backup battery to power that fan when the power goes out, it’s rather disappointing when the battery runs out of power and the fan stops in the middle of a hot (read: above 100 degrees) night. See, the battery needs electricity to charge, and when the power is out 16 hours a day (like it has been recently), the battery can’t get charged enough to power the fan throughout the night. Thus, there is this tragic moment at around 2am when the fan gets slower. And slower. And then it eventually stops. The air is still. The heat, oppressive. Beads of sweat form all over my body. And a silent tear rolls down my cheek. As Bane said in The Dark Knight Rises, “There can be no true despair without hope.” The fan is the hope. The power cuts, the despair.

4) Public Accommodation Laws. Most U.S. States have statutes that prohibit public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, etc.) from discriminating against people on the basis of marital status. See, e.g., 9 V.S.A. s. 4502(a) (go Vermont!). This is important because sometimes I want to go to Applebees all by my lonesome and shoot dirty looks at all the snooty married couples. But Tamil Nadu never got the memo. This became clear a few nights ago, when the power was out and the battery was totally drained (see point (3)). I was sitting at home in the dark with Ted and a female coworker, watching season 1 of Modern Family (my new favorite show) on my laptop. Since the house’s backup battery was drained, the fan wasn’t working, which meant that the mosquitoes were attacking us mercilessly (the fan keeps the mosquitoes at bay). Since the electricity showed no sign of returning, we were facing the possibility of an entire night without working fans. I have a mosquito net around my bed, so I wasn’t worried about being bitten, but Ted and our coworker do not, and they depend on their fans to keep the mosquitoes in check. The thought of eight hours of kamikaze mosquito attacks rightly terrified them, so they called a local hotel to see if there were openings. Upon learning that there would be an unmarried man and woman sharing the room, the hotel operator refused to book them a room. In the U.S., a legal smack down would then result. See, e.g., 9 V.S.A. s. 4506(a) (allowing a civil action for a violation of the public accommodation law). But in India, this was not an option. However, there are other options, such as my coworker shouting over the phone some variation of the following phrases:


In what I think was the result of the first and last, the operator immediately booked the room.

Four things I don’t miss:

1) Pets. Because how can you miss a pet when you come home everyday to Shibu, the most adorable pup in all of South India:

She belongs to our landlords, but loves visiting our upstairs apartment. She also loves to pee on our floor when she gets excited. This is not so adorable.

2) Food. You can get cheap, delicious, and healthy(ish) food everywhere. Plus, there are lots of fruits stands that will cut up papayas and put them in a bag for me. Take out papaya… what a concept!

3) Yoga. I found an amazing teacher here named Yoga Meenaksi. In addition to knowing her stuff, she embodies all the yoga stands for—you feel at peace just talking to her. Check out her awesome yoga space:










4) Commuting. In my last job, I had a 40-45 minute commute each way. Here, I have a five-minute ride in an auto rickshaw. Check out this video of my commute here:

For as long he can remember, Brian has wanted to make the world a better place. This led him to become a Math teacher, a yoga teacher, and a Peace Corps Volunteer. While teaching Math and Physics at a small village high school in rural Kenya, he picked up Swahili, started a chess club, and discovered his true passion‰ÛÓhuman rights and international development. Upon returning to the U.S., Brian pursued a law degree and spent three years studying international law and human rights. Having seen the power of education to transform lives, he also raised money to send his former Kenyan students to college. Since graduating from Penn Law School in 2010, Brian has been clerking in the Superior Court of Vermont, researching legal issues for judges in the Criminal, Civil, and Family Courts. He is excited to work in the field of human rights in India, a country that has long fascinated him.

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6 thoughts on “Four Things I Miss From the U.S. (and Four Things I Don’t)

  1. Your ride is a little bit scary! I was on the edge of my seat watching that. I thought they drove close to each other in Japan, but that is nothing in comparison to where you are! WOW. And I’m sorry about the electricity situation. But, I am also in awe that you lived off the grid for a couple of years, while in Africa nonetheless. Amazing. How long are you away from the US? ~Alex (North Andover friend) 🙂

  2. I hope as lawyer you can make a proposal to Indian law minister to make amendments and let you guys rest in peace when being attacked by mosquito mercilessly……
    Please come over to Chennai anytime you want, I have enough electricity to lend you.

  3. I am a consultant so here are some solutions:
    I never had the official Brahmin thread ( Poonal)ceremony so am a Brahmin only in name. But try unravelling the Poonal thread and you may discover Floss.
    I hope you guys buy that Chinese made tennis racket which zaps Mosquitos.
    As there are three of you take turns sleeping and one of you can be the Pankawala(ee)
    I will bring some NyQuil for you when I visit Madurai.
    Enjoyed reading your blog

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