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Kristen

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We are now approximately six months into our year in the U.S. and I think we are pretty well adjusted. I’ve become accustomed to eating my favorite foods again. I’m used to the 40 minute commute to Hanover twice a week. The house is pretty well decorated how I’d like. But I still feel like I’m suffering from what I’ll call PCS hangover.

It doesn’t happen often anymore, but I still find myself in situations where choices are extremely overwhelming. This used to happen every time I went to the grocery store. Why are there 25 different kinds of flour?! What is this magical fresh meat/seafood section?! Pre-shredded cheese?! I didn’t think it was possible!

I know it sounds silly but two years in a place like Dushanbe messes with your mind.

Now incidents like that are becoming fewer and farther between. The last one happened in Wisconsin when we went to the meat market in Green Bay. Sean set me to “grab some cheese” while he waited to check out with the rest of our groceries. I walked over to the cheese fridge and froze. Why are there 10 different kinds of cheddar?! What is this insanity?! Luckily Sean was there to calm me down and help me select a reasonable amount of Wisconsin goodies. I considered this normal behavior after two years in Dushanbe and six months in Maryland where the cheese selection was abysmal at best. I was feeling pretty good about my mental state.

Then. We went to IKEA.

I’ve never been to an IKEA before this weekend. When we bought the house, one of the light fixtures burned out before the previous owners moved out. They offered to replace it or leave us an IKEA gift card to compensate. We opted for the gift card since we didn’t like the lights anyway.

There isn’t an IKEA in our area. The closest is College Park which is about a 45 minute drive. Neither of us were ever in a big hurry to drive out there to look around a store we don’t necessarily like for stuff we don’t necessarily need. But now that it’s January it’s becoming do or die with the house. Either we fix things, decorate things, or let things go since we will be leaving again this summer. We had a gift card burning a hole in our pocket. It was time to suck it up and drive.

I vaguely understood how IKEA worked. First you wander through the showroom where they show you how all their products could work together, then you eat a bunch of meatballs or something, then you can actually shop and put items into your cart. Something like that. Right?

Trouble is we weren’t going with any particular need in mind. So wandering through the showroom was overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that there were approximately 2,000 other people doing the same thing that day. I tried my best not to freak out, clutching my complementary yellow bag like my life depended on it, all the while getting more confused as to what exactly we were doing there.

Your reward – or punishment, depending upon how you look at it – for making it through the showroom was the self service center. Here you could actually pick up the things you saw upstairs. The thing is, there are way more items in the self service area than the showroom. So you are once again flooded with possibilities.

We finally settled on a rug. I’d mentioned offhand it would be nice to put down a rug in the “dog room” to control some of the mounds of black hair constantly tumbling around the house. Honestly I don’t know how they still have hair on their bodies. We found one we liked well enough and would max out the gift card so we never had to experience this insanity again. We loaded it onto the card. Wandered through the third section of the store which is basically a warehouse on steroids with furniture in pieces. I kept my head down as to not get overwhelmed.

We got all the way to the checkout when we realized we’d grabbed the wrong size. And of course they didn’t have the right size in stock. And of course shipping was $50.

So two hours on the edge of a freak out for nothing.

The following day we went to the next closest IKEA store in Virginia which promised to have the rug in stock. This time we were able to walk purposefully to the self service area, locate the damn rug, and purchase it without too much trouble. What a way to spend a weekend. And what a way to reinforce that I’m clearly not finished being overwhelmed with the choices in America.

At least the pups love it.

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