When I go to the grocery store, and if I’m not in a hurry, I usually browse by the “special sales” rack where they have American and European products that are usually $12 marked down for something like $9. [Yeah, it’s a steal—watch out.] And a few weeks ago, [for reasons still unbeknownst to me], I got really excited and happy when I saw rice cakes. I don’t even know the brand—except it’s that old man of a Mr. Roger’s puppet—ya know, the one with long white hair, a beard and a blue hat? Anyways, I picked them up and, with a smile on my face, put them in my basket and kept walking, like I had just worked out with the Green Bay Packers or something.
When I got home and started unpacking my bags, my enthusiasm was still there. I even sent a text message to an American friend and was like, “Girl! I just bought rice cakes! J” [Seriously??]
The next day I woke up and threw some fruit together for my lunch for work [it’s all I ever take—my friends take care of the rest of hourly feedings] and I busted open that neat pillar of rice cakes, taking a few for work.
What a bad idea.
I don’t even like rice cakes. How did that slip my mind before I spent almost $4 on them?
As I was crunching into one at work, [trying to talk myself into eating it really naturally and nonchalantly], I was being watched. And of course, there was a conversation.
Muna: Sarah. What are you eating??? [She was eating a quieter sandwich of a pita, spreadable cheese and cucumber—way more delicious, too, I should add.]
Me: [with a smile on my face, trying to play it cool] A rice cake. *Crunch*
Muna: A RICE CAKE???! SARAH!!! WHY ARE YOU EATING A RICE CAKE?? Here, eat this. [She throws a tomato at me.] Or this. [She throws a sandwich of my favorite spices and oil across our desks.] Please don’t eat a rice cake. They’re so…. icky. Sarah, are you on a diet?? It won’t work here.
Me: Muna!!! [In my Arab whine—I’m still perfecting it.] It’s just a rice cake. And it’s good for you… and it just tastes so good… and….
I trailed off as we both started laughing. I get up to throw it in the garbage and of course, in walk four more friends, all clucking away like the sweet and noisy hens that they are. Muna [in Arabic] immediately recounts the snack situation and I’m forced to confess that I didn’t buy the rice cakes because I like them or even because they were such a good deal, but because they reminded me of America and there was something in me that made me just want them because they were familiar. And even greater than that, it seemed like none of the Arabs were buying them and since I want them to continue stocking American products, I should be buying them… “I was ‘nationality-obligated’ to buy them,” I said.
There was an explosion of laughter and that rapid-fire Arabic started up again, only to leave me a little ashamed, but mostly comforted by my zeit wu zataar sandwich Muna had thrown at me in her rescue attempts.
This last week I was in a little JACKPOT of a convenience store [seriously—check out all that American cereal!] and spotted a box of Lucky Charms. Like, REAL Lucky Charms cereal and as I was almost running over to them, I flashbacked to the whole rice cake incident. However, as a kid, when my mom would buy the sugary, expensive cereal, I would always want Lucky Charms, so I knew this was legitimate nostalgia setting in. But don’t worry—I saw the price—nearly $11. So instead of buying the box, I had my friend just take a picture of me with it. I don’t eat cereal here—this Wisconsin girl can’t handle the long-life, box milk.
Life Lesson: Even when you don’t think you are,
being homesick shows up in the most ridiculous ways.
You just gotta pay attention.
Thing for Love: I proved to be consistent in making my friends laugh.
[Even if it was at my expense.]