So I’m sitting here in the Houston airport with two more hours to kill, and free wifi as a Christmas gift from Boingo! 🙂 It’s amazing how I’ve been back in the States for just an hour or two now and already I’m in shock at all these small but striking differences.

For one, I can throw the toilet paper in the toilet….WHAT? I think I’ll still be throwing it in the trash for a while now.

And I had totally forgotten this amazing concept….They give you FREE WATER at restaurants? I came in to a diner for a (severely overpriced) milkshake and they brought me this giant glass of water. At first I was like, huh? I didn’t order this! Oh WAIT. Awesome!

The milkshake? WAS HUGE. And they bring you the remainder (which is basically an entire other milkshake). I forgot about the whole big portion thing here in the States.

Christmas is EVERYWHERE. In Quito they had some tinsel at the airport, and I saw a Christmas tree in a nice hotel once. But that’s about it. Here, Christmas music is playing everywhere, the waitresses are wearing Santa hats and there are wreathes and tinsel and little Christmas decorations everywhere.

But the best thing? Having a cell phone! I was starting to miss it since most of the people I  hung out in Quito had mobiles since they were mostly spending extended time living in South America. But having my old phone back…It feels so weird in my hands. And I turned it on and it immediately started making very loud, obnoxious noises…TEXTS! It was nice to know the people thinking of me, texting me so I’d get them when I arrived and turned my phone on. And then it was a kind of funny feeling to be whipping my thumbs around on a tiny keypad, sending texts back at lightning speed. Oh, the simple thrills in life!

One disappointment, that is basically Houston’s fault: where’s my fast food? I’ve had these sad fantasies of arriving to the airport here and trying to decide which fast food to have first. I had it all planned. If there’s a Burger King I’m definitely getting the fries from there. Wendy’s I would at least have to get a Frosty. KFC, definitely wedges. If there’s a Subway, a chocolate chip cookie is a definite must and a sub, too, if I’m in the mood.

Then I got to the airport. Despite having vending machines for everything under the sun (Best Buy, Sephora, and, most randomly, Proactiv), the only fast food place is China Wok! What a disappointment. The only other options were $10+ sandwiches and gourmet food from the stupid stereotypical airport cafeterias or express carts. This was also a reminder that I was back to US prices – boo! Though of course airports are always overpriced on top of it anyways. I think I spent more today just buying a bottled water, dark chocolate M&Ms, a China Wok combo and a milkshake than I did on a typical entire day in South America (with accommodation!). The milkshake alone would be an entire day’s food budget. Yikes!

On an unrelated note, I should add that Quito’s airport sucks and if you’re ever flying out of there you should know a couple things.

First, the airport tax is now $40.80. I swear I read it was $25 when I left three months ago.

Second, if you buy a water in the airport at any time (even after security) and think you can take it into the gate or on the plane with you, you are mistaken. They check your bags before you enter the gate waiting area, and they won’t let you bring bottled water in. Doesn’t matter if you just bought it in the food court and its unopened. Too bad. I had to chug my bottle (which I dropped $1.50 on there – about five times the regular price) before I entered the gate. And then had to pee like crazy by the time I was on the plane (there’s no bathroom in the gate area). Boo UIO.

In other news, my last days in Quito were great. My hostel, Blue House, is basically like a big family, and I always had someone to hang out with. We all got on really well, and I was sad to have to say goodbye to them. We had a great time celebrating the end of Quito’s big fiesta, dancing the night away with each other and a bunch of Quiteños as well!

Seeing family and celebrating Christmastime at home will be very nice, though, and soon enough off to Sweden — the adventure continues!