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.


  • Kathryn says:

    Hi Becky,
    I really enjoyed hearing about your experience in Walmart. It is quite the store. I always wondered what missionaries would be thinking when they returned to the stores here in the US. May our Lord richly bless you!

  • rosie schuurman says:

    I remember coming back to the States for furlough…about 20 years ago..the new, big cars seemed so frivolous to me but everyone seemed to have one…except us with our 12 year old modest sedan without a/c . The multilane highways of Chicago freaked me out as well. But the biggest challenge for me was the buffet at Ryan’s restaurant. So much food at one glance. I took a bit of everything as if it would be my last meal..I was sooo sick when I left. I was happy to be back safe in our Ecuadorian culture where if I got sick from eating, it was from food poisoning or parasites, not gluttony!!!

  • Janis says:

    We Americans are so spoiled. Unfortunatly, most Americans don’t realize it. I learned this after working in Haiti for several years. I didn’t grow up with much but realized how much stuff I had that I didn’t need. It certainly changes your priorities. I’m so thankful that God has let me sweat alongside my Haitian friends. However, I do like my soft toilet paper when possible. May God bless you and your hot pilot husband.

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