Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm in America. What?!

It's been quite a while since I've written and I hope you all know that I'm no longer in Cambodia. I managed to finish service with all my limbs intact though my liver did take a beating from dengue. Now that I've been back in the states for about a month I see more clearly the value of changing your surroundings and of blogging about it. Going from country to country and culture to culture forces you to compare and contrast both your own actions and others. By blogging about it I take events that particularly strike me and process it through the written word. The reason I bring it up now is that this process hasn't stopped and I think I'm going to keep writing about it.

When I first arrived in Cambodia everything was difficult and everything was new. I spent a lot of time taking in new information and trying to process it. I kept trying to understand it all using the set of social rules that I learned growing up in America. As time past, I began to compare it going the other way. Why do I do certain things when they don't really make any sense? This has only gotten more prevalent now that I am back in America and so many things that Americans take as normal are just odd to me.

For example, why are we so obsessed with cleaning?! People in America HATE finding a single stray hair in their food. Hair is not that dirty and it's just a strand of protein. Also, each human being loses tons of hair everyday. Think about all the places that you've been in the last few hours. I guarantee,  unless you're completely bald, that you've left hair and dead skin in every single place. I understand the need for sterility in medical locations or research labs, but finding a hair in your food is pretty normal. It's only unusual because we take pains to make sure it never happens.

We're so obsessed with being clean that we don't realize what we're actually doing to ourselves. People reflexively use industrial cleaners, hand sanitizer, strong detergents without actually thinking about the consequences down the line. Is exposure to bleach on a regular basis worth killing those few bacteria that your body can easily fight off worth it? On top of that is killing all those regular,normal bacteria worth it? Believe it or not they play a role in fending off other illnesses. Think of it this way. You're living in the forest and there are a lot of animals. Monkeys, birds, raccoons, tigers, etc. Normally the tiger hunts the other animals because it's natural and easier. Maybe some tigers are even killed by some animals or illnesses, thereby making you safer. Now imagine you cleaned the forest so all the dirty animals and bacteria are gone. The only things left are you and the tiger. The tiger is going to eat you because there is nothing else between you and the tiger.

This might be an extreme and unbelievable analogy, but the point is that our obsession with cleaning is killing an ecosystem. We are built to live with bacteria and bacteria live within us. Most of us even have a few viruses (think chickenpox). This is the norm. But, society tells us to clean clean clean!