I have gained weight in America. No, I haven’t been eating too much. In fact, I’ve been eating a lot less (halal food is hard to find here, but that’s another blog post). It’s the baggage. No, not emotional baggage. That’ll come later. I came to the US with one bag bursting at the seams and am leaving with two bursting at the seams. This is what happens when you are a shopaholic. Retail therapy doesn’t seem to work (heh heh). Unsurprisingly, the only thing that seems to be getting lighter is my pocket.

Times Square, New York

Blame it on capitalism. How can one not get drawn to the temples of consumerism (Mall of America anyone?) Blasphemous! And those pesky gift shops. It seems you can’t leave a tourist attraction without exiting through the gift shop, with its overpriced baubles that attract like a magnet (ahem) wide-eyed shoppers who shovel anything that comes into their hands into their carts as if in a trance.

Mall of America, MN

It all began when I bought a solitary refrigerator magnet in Cyprus in 2008. Since then, I have bought magnets from every city and country I’ve visited. Not one anymore, but tens. Suddenly I’m finding myself saddled with nearly a hundred magnets of all shapes, sizes and materials as this two-month, ten-city trip comes to a close. Add the touristy t-shirts, coffee mugs and other assorted knickknacks and you’ve got a serious weight problem. And let’s not even talk about all the other things I’ve bought on my shopping binges on Chicago’s State St, Miami’s Lincoln Ave and New York’s Times Square – clothes, toys, books, chocolates, you name it.

Pier 39, San Francisco

What was I thinking when I bought that green plush frog?! And that grabber that barely fits sideways in my suitcase. Not to mention the three mugs I bought on a whim. What a mug I’ve been! Those evil gnomes that live under the scales at airline counters at the airport must surely be rubbing their hands in glee. And if I do manage to foil their nefarious designs, the plethora of gift shops at the airport will ensure that I depart after parting with every dollar remaining in my depleted wallet.