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I was recently complaining noting to my mom that my life is currently made up of lists, plans, and schedules for the future. I’m preparing to leave the South Asian city I call home and head back to the US. Preparing, to me, means lists. Lists of people to see and places to go; lists of gifts to take and things from here I won’t be able to get in the US (hair oil, check. chai, check.). Each list carefully laid out in Excel, specially color coded in fonts that look like handwriting.

I’m excited to be with the family and friends I haven’t seen in two years. Goodness! Two years. Think of all the things that change in that amount of time – and I’m not just talking a few extra pounds and a couple more grey hairs! Births, deaths, moves, lessons learned and hurts endured. Some friends have kept me updated, many have not, and I feel like I’m in for as steep a learning curve as when I first arrived in South Asia!

So while my preparatory lists continue to multiply themselves, I’m building other lists in the back of my mind. Lists like “Embarrassing Things I Will Probably Do” while re-adjusting to the States.

For example: I’m fairly certain I’m going to blow it in the whole finger-food decision moment. Nearly everything here in South Asia can be eaten with your fingers. I’ve even seen soup eaten expertly (and surprisingly neatly!) with nothing but roti and fingers. I now feel completely comfortable simply diving into a plate of food hands-first, only noticing later that a spoon had been supplied.

But in the US – there’s a fine line between finger food and fork food. Like chicken: there’s chicken you can eat with your fingers (fried) and chicken you cannot (the Sunday roast). I’m pretty sure I’ll cross that fine line at least once. I just hope it doesn’t happen in a restaurant.

What will probably happen in a restaurant is insisting to the waiter that he bring filtered water – because who in the world drinks straight from the tap?

I try not to add to this list with too much anxiety, preferring to think of these as future opportunities to laugh at myself. (It’s keeping my need for nighttime sleep aids to a minimum.)

Lists for my Western home aren’t the only lists in my Excel spreadsheets folder. On the advice of some very good mentors and thanks to plane tickets actually being cheaper if bought separately for different chunks of the journey – I’m taking an “extended layover” in London. A week to remind myself about some of the Western world’s customs and detox from the emotional goodbyes I’ll say here in South Asia. I’ve got a whole Excel spreadsheet devoted to the information I need to find historical places like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London

With this preparation comes my first reminder of what life in the West is like – you can actually find ticket prices and make advance reservations online! That’s a big change from the South Asian ritual of learning information for local attractions from your friend’s neighbor’s uncle’s grandson who went there two years ago with a group from school! My inner planner is re-awakening in the delight of having things nailed down more than two hours before the event. *squeal!*

As of today, I’m two weeks away from touchdown in London. Expect frequent updates of my adventures. In the meantime, have you ever been to London? (Or have a neighbor whose uncle’s grandson has been?) Any recommendations on where to go or what to see?

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