I don’t know how I got to discussing the issue of toilet paper in South America with Tom and Tom, the Englishmen. But then, in a bar, the discussion is liable to go anywhere.

Paper is an interesting situation, though. South Americans seem loath to use the stuff. I’m lucky if a restaurant gives me one napkin. And then, it might be more like wax paper–not particularly useful for cleaning oneself.

The toilet paper is usually thin and uncomfortable. And it can’t be flushed down the toilet, lest it clog the plumbing. I’m expected to throw the used paper into a wastebasket. Sometimes, it doesn’t have a lid.

Tom–the red-headed one–said he couldn’t wait to get back to the England and use proper toilet paper again. It got me thinking about the things that I’ve been missing during nearly two months spent on the road. With barely a month left to go, these thoughts are creeping up more often.

I do miss good napkins, tissues, paper towels, and, yes, toilet paper. But those are hardly the things I’m most looking forward to.

Hockey is probably the top item. Mention the word in Argentina, and I’m liable to get funny looks, or have the other person start talking about field hockey, which is quite popular here–the Argentine men’s team won the Olympic gold medal in Rio. I doubt that the World Cup of Hockey is going to be televised in Peru. My only serving of my favorite sport comes from reading articles or watching Youtube highlights.

I would say I miss the food, but that’s not true. Argentine cuisine has blown away all my expectations. Well, except for breakfast. A big plate of scrambled eggs and fried bacon would be a welcome change from the typical bread-based meals served here.

I do miss my friends and family. But that’s too obvious, so I’m not going to expand on it.

The thing I am most looking forward to is something basic: communication. I long to be able to chat up a random stranger–to ask questions, and be able to understand the response. It’s so hard to satisfy my curiosity about people when I can’t speak their language.

I took that ability for granted for so long, allowing my shyness to keep me from talking. That fear seems unfounded now that I’ve lost the ability.

There is an Abraham Lincoln quote that goes, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” I wonder if Lincoln ever found himself in a situation where he couldn’t talk to anyone. It makes speaking out seem far more appealing.


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