Things That No Longer Surprise Me

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: Still hanging out in the countryside, on Jeju Island, South Korea

Things that no longer surprise me:

Buying deodorant and toothpaste in someone’s living room.

Glimpsing the chef’s toddler wandering around the kitchen of a restaurant.

The staff’s mopeds parked in the lobby of the hotel, all lined up in tidy rows.

People relieving themselves. Pretty much anywhere.

Five year olds walking unaccompanied on the streets, in the poorest countries in the world. Five year olds walking unaccompanied on the streets, in the richest countries in the world.

Income disparity. It’s worse in some places than others, but my innate American ability to not see it is long gone.

Meat being sold in open air. I used to see it in the Caribbean, long before we started traveling full time, but now I realize it’s basically everywhere except the US. Maybe it’s in the US too, and I’ve just never noticed it. I’m not sure—see the previous item. I used to be really good at ignoring things that freaked me out, and flies hanging out in the vicinity of raw meat definitely freak me out.

Barbers plying their trade on the sidewalk—a little kid getting his first haircut, a businessman getting a quick trim on his way to work, a young man and his buddy egging each other on to go a little shorter, a little edgier.

Garbage. The world is full of garbage, and no one—and I do mean NO ONE—has truly figured out how to deal with it. In countries that don’t have much empty space, or much money for government systems, the garbage is just part of the community. Step around it, step over it, burn it on the sidewalk, dump it in the river. It has to go somewhere.

Sort of like the animals. I’m no longer surprised by stray cats and dogs, and sometimes cows, pigs, chickens, monkeys. I mostly try to give them a wide berth (except the cats, because cat pictures are the whole point of the internet, right?). As a matter of fact, I’m terrified of dogs, plus there’s always the rabies to worry about, so I give them an extra-wide berth. But animals live in the world and as long as there are hungry children, and there are lots of those, in case you are wondering, I suspect dealing with stray animals will continue to be a low priority.

Unreliable sidewalks. In some places, they’re too broken to be of much use. In other places, motorcycles are as likely to be zooming along on the sidewalk as the road. And in many places, there’s at least some risk of falling into a sewer. I’m pretty sure that’s how I’m going to die.

Steep/uneven stairs at tourist attractions, coupled with a lack of railings. Safety regulations? Hahahaha.

Tourists writing scathing reviews of things they haven’t even tried to understand. The hotel staff weren’t humble enough. The waiter didn’t anticipate my every desire. The ticket agent didn’t speak my language. There were too many tourists at the thing I traveled here to see. The people in the shops all wanted to sell me something. The people in the shops wouldn’t pay attention to me.

Most foods (and beverages: I’m looking at you, Vietnamese coffee) that have strong roots in a place are best consumed in that place. Except pizza. Pizza is rarely a bad idea.

People touching the art. Don’t touch the art. Just . . . don’t.

Drying racks. At this point I’m so accustomed to air drying my clothes that dryers actually make me a little nervous. Once all my socks shrank down to the size of baby booties. That was suboptimal.

Different entry prices for locals versus visitors. Yes, it’s reasonable. If you can afford to travel to a place, you can pay the visitor price. If you can’t, maybe don’t go.

Hipster coffee shops. They’re truly everywhere. Luckily I really love a hipster coffee shop.

From my writer’s notebook:

Facebook has announced that they will no longer allow their site to be used as a marketplace for historical artifacts. It seems the black market antiquities trade has been flourishing on Facebook, with buyers and sellers going so far as to instruct thieves in the fine arts of excavation and looting. Yet another strike against social media.

Take care,


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