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Undone in Walmart

Recently, my husband and I returned to the States for a quick month while he attended the Instructor Pilot Seminar at MAF headquarters. After several years of living in Indonesia, I knew that I would feel reverse culture shock returning to America, so I prepared myself. I knew the most daunting task for me would be grocery shopping. So many choices! I mentally readied myself for the 20 types of peanut butter and the bazillion types of cereal, but I had no idea that toilet paper would be my undoing. It snuck up on me.

I found myself standing in the toilet paper aisle completely overwhelmed. Why are there so many different kinds of toilet paper? A whole aisle dedicated to toilet paper? Quilted, non-quilted, generic, name-brand, 4-ply, 2-ply, 1-ply. Seriously?

I am a thirty-year-old woman. I have learned a completely different language. I have lived in a foreign country. I have snorkeled with whale sharks and had some questionable spa treatments. I have been in the remote mountains of Papua where people have no idea what Walmart is … or probably even toilet paper. I have ridden on a tiny little airplane, flown by my hot pilot hubby, into postage stamp-sized airstrips, but it was the toilet paper aisle at Walmart that did me in!

After much deliberation, I ended up buying Quilted Northern because those little cartoon bears are cute. Yes, that’s how I decided … based on the packaging and the commercials where the baby bear gets the other brand toilet paper stuck on his bum. I guess marketing works. I’m pretty sure all the Walmartians thought I was crazy as I stood there in the toilet paper aisle, picking up one package, but then exchanging it for another, over and over again.

I’m not exactly sure when my “normal” changed. I can’t pinpoint a certain time or incident that flipped my thinking, but it happened none-the-less.

I’m so glad to be home now and back to normal. You know, the kind of “normal” where we are one of two western families in town, fly tiny airplanes into small mountain airstrips, and have one choice of toilet paper.


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