Coming back to the U.S. after two years -- anything happen while I was gone?

So I’ll be winding up my tour of duty here in Sri Lanka at the end of the month after two years of themost turbulent period in the nation’s recent history (oh, and the tsunami).

I’m U.S. Foreign Service and I’ve been doing political and public affairs work, so it’s not like I’m completely in the dark as to what’s been going on in the States, but I was talking to a tourist the other day and was struck by how much I’ve missed. So what have been the highlights of 2003-2005?

I was back for two weeks after Thanksgiving, so I’m not expecting a lot of culture shock, but what have other people done to deal with coming back to a place where the Immigration Officer says “welcome home” and you have to think for a minute about what that means?

Our nation is more divided than at any time since the Vietnam War.
Humor is dead.
Television is dominated by “reality” shows.

The Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. No, I am not making that up.

The main thing that struck me when I returned was the noise level in public places and the propensity for complete strangers to tell you every intimate detail of their lives.

Other than that, the fearmongering continues, and the stock market is still around the levels it was in 2000.

Cell phone usage has gotten crazy. Everyone seems to have one and everyone seems to be on them. Almost half of the people driving are on them. When you go to the grocery store, Target or the bank and chances are half the people will be chatting away loudly on them even when they are checking out of the store and the clerk is helping them. At the movies chances are that you’ll hear at least one cell phone ring during the movie even though they run ads telling people to turn them off.

My question is: Who are all these people talking to?

Another bad thing that has emerged is the vehicle called the HUMMER. Have you seen one of those awful things yet? If not, don’t fear it’s not a tank coming for you, it’s just “Barbie” or “Ken” out for a cruise.

Good things that have happened:

TiVo and DVR

Hummers I’ve seen, knew about the Sox as incredible as it may seem, but then again I’m a Dodger fan, so we’re used to pain and suffering.

Cell phone usage is even bigger here, in India, and the rest of Asia. Let off a Nokia ringtone or the latest pop song in a public place in Singapore and watch everyone scramble to see if it’s them. Everyone has one – our driver, who we pay approx 100 USD a month, which is a good wage on the local market, has one and uses it all the time.

I work for the government, so fearmongering isn’t an issue, we usually know about things that’d make your pubes go straight if you got the whole scoop.

I think you will find that technological innovations and automation has progressed quite a bit in the last couple of years. It is a little hard for me to judge just how much because I was here while it was developing so that is deceptive. There are lots of options for automatic payments like transponders if you travel on a toll road, some supermarket self check-out machines, etc. ATM’s are everywhere now. People found out that they could make money with the surcharges and put ATM’s in every gas station, convienience store, and even workplaces. Satellite radio is pretty common now. Serious security measures like sophisticated cameras are quickly being rolled out in some cities and are common in places like schools.

At last year’s Super Bowl, Janet Jackson’s nipple was either accidentaly or purposefully revealed during the halftime show for a second or two. It was one of the biggest news stories of the year. Western civilization fell into ruin, and wolves now stalk the streets of our former cities.

Oh, and self check-out is everywhere, from grocery stores to libraries.

Let’s see. There’s a not-very-pretty, vapid woman named Paris Hilton, who seems to have become a cultural icon after being seen in a badly lit sex video with some guy.

Reality TV is all the rage – in a true merger of cultural trends, that same Paris Hilton is in a reality TV show.

The TV show with the most buzz right now is about four suburban housewives in a neighborhood filled with sex, infidelity and murder. And yet the same network that runs that show was afraid that people might find a re-run of Saving Private Ryan objectinable because it had foul language.

Anna Nicole Smith lost a whole bunch of weight. But Kirstie Alley gained a whole lot of weight, so at seems to have evened out.

Did anybody mention that we’re all eating something called soylent green?

Howard Stern is still around but a little harder to find.

The National Football League vetted Paul McCartney’s songs before allowing him to perform at halftime at the Superbowl. It’s okay to talk about men’s erections during an ad but it’s not okay for women to jiggle their breasts except during NFL games.

Ring tones are louder and sound like bizarre Musak from another planet.

National budgets don’t have to include obvious and more expensive items.

Michael Jackson’s face is looking better, but I’m sure he still hasn’t had any more surgery.

You are not allowed to say “Happy Holidays” anymore. You have to be specific and it has to start with Merry

If you live in certain states that are considering legalizing the importation of medications via mail from Canada, any packages of medicine that you receive now may be confiscated because they may be hazardous to your health.

Beef which may be infected with mad cow disease may pass from Canada uninspected.

The Cabinet position of Secretary of Labor may be out-sourced to China.

Welcome home, False_God. There remains much to be thankful for.

Now that you’ve read all the posts, you know you were referring to the US of A in the above bolding, right?

But seriously, I remember how I felt when my MAC flight touched down at McGuire AFB after I spent 23 months in the Mediterranean with the 6th Fleet.


and thanks for everything you do.

Yup, the Bambino’s curse is lifted. Oh and cats and dogs are now living together.

Also, President Bush was re-elected - to the joy of probably a hundred million people in this country, the dismay of more than a hundred million, and the apathy of three.

Last year we were conquered by giant squids with eyes that shot laser beams.
They left though.
Now we’ve just got Bush.

I humbly suggest we take a poll to determine which Americans thought was better, the squids or Bush.

My money’s on the squids. :smiley:

Michael Moore is one of the most reviled men in the entire country because…uh…someone explain this to me again?

Reality TV continues to spiral out of control, and there still isn’t a single program that makes a damn bit of sense. (Look, Amazing Race producers…if ham-fisted bunchups are the only way to keep it competitive, maybe you should find contestants that are more evenly matched, for crying out loud.) I think it’s hit a plateau, though, and we’ll definitely see a dropoff in the near future. As for the original, Survivor, it’s still around, but it might be running out of gas.

Ken Jennings, after winning and winning and winning on the most popular game show in the country, finally went down…and is now set for life. Make of that what you will. :smiley:

The war in Iraq continues. People are still dying. Atrocities are still being committed (on both sides). I still don’t know what the hell the point of this was.

Anna Kournikova looks like she’s finally hanging it up, freeing her to do whatever the heck she’s been doing besides tennis for like the past damn year or so. When future generations ask me how she was, I’ll say “She was pretty good…for a doubles specialist.”

Tiger Woods continues to fail to duplicate his phenomenal, once-in-a-millenium 2001 season, and sportswriters continue to act like it’s the most shocking thing ever.

Most of the fast food places I go to have discontinued their low-carb selections, and I don’t see a lot of them at supermarkets either, so that diet craze looks like it’s on its way out. Rest assured, however, that something equally asinine and completely removed from the original diet regimen will eventually come along.

Oh, and 1. the purists are virulently blasting Tokyopop’s rendition of Initial D 2. which is insanely popular and has gotten trainloads of rave reviews. Some things never change. :slight_smile:

Also everywhere in the States: iPods. If you haven’t seen those, they’re hand-sized music players that you can fill with enormous amounts of music downloaded from the internet. Between these and cellphones it is nearly impossible to get anyone’s attention for any reason. :wink:

Very little has changed significantly over the past two years.


It cost 37 cents to mail a letter.

TV sucks.

No NHL this year.

Weekly World News continues to get the story right the first time and has the balls to write about Bat Boy! Integrity isn’t dead in journalism. :slight_smile:

Captain Lance Murdock won the Dead Pool for 2004 and looks like he has the Touch of Death for 2005.

That’s about it.

Welcome Back!

After you do come back… do us a favor and open a thread about the differences you perceived… ? It would be nice to see how coming back was.

From my experience most of those who “stayed behind” will not perceive any changes… but you will.