Wednesday, April 25

Being American . . .

in a foreign country can be hard at times, I think I've mentioned this a few times, but it's not as easy as you might think. And yes, it is VERY different from being a tourist!! Yesterday, Jen wrote and touched on this subject, which is what inspired me to write today about this. Well that & the fact that I haven't written a good blog yet this week & I'm sure some of you are a bit bored reading about my work.

I guess what spurred my reaction was that Jen said something about showing that America is not George Bush, which is soooooo true!! At lunch yesterday I was sitting with 3 girls from my lab (K who is Canadian, A&T = English) & another girl (C = English) who doesn't actually work here anymore but is finishing up a few experiments this week.

I'm not sure how we got on the topic, but suddenly we were talking about flights & security. Some what out of the blue C said, "flying through America sucks thanks to your president". Trying to understand what she meant I had to inquire what exactly she meant by this statement. "everyone gets finger printed & full body cavity checks"
"No C, not everyone gets finger printed & I think you might be wrong about the full body cavity checks".
"No I'm right, when my parents flew in last time, they had their bags searched & then zip tie locked up, followed by the cavity check. Plus I don't think this system is good because the workers could plant drugs in your bag & then call ahead to the next airport to have you arrested"
Trying to remain calm & not just deck her (which was my first thought) I said, "Now C think about it, if they found the drugs in your bag at JFK they would arrest you there, they wouldn't wait until you landed in Orlando to arrest you, so if you got arrested there for drugs it would be obvious they were planted"
"Well that maybe the case for Americans, but not for us, they are always trying to get us arrested" - C said
I tried to just drop the subject, we were obviously not going to see eye to eye on this one at all! But then a few minutes later, she had to start up again on a different issue, but still the same anti-American topic. This time it was about how all American think that America is the best place in the world & that we dislike other countries & that's why not many Americans have passports. I'm not exactly sure how she was going to prove any of this, but seeing the writing on the wall I avoided saying anything. K who is Canadian, but being North American she felt the need to stick up for me, she said, "Have you ever been to America? For that matter, have you ever been out of the UK?"
"No, but I know my parents told me, when they were there"
To which K just smiled & said, "how about we only talk about what we know first hand"
I was very thankful for K's tactful way of shutting her up because I was getting really frustrated with all the America bashing.
I think everyone should be proud of where they came from & we should all be proud that we are all very different. I'm not going to try to tell you that America is the best place on the face of the earth & that we single handedly are going to be able to solve the world's problems, but I think it America is a great place & I'm very proud to be from there.
That all being said because I have run into a few people who are like C in their views of America/Americans, at times I joke that I'd almost prefer to say I'm Canadian, but not because I'm embarrassed about being American, but just to avoid a pointless argument, in which neither of us are going to be able to convince the other we are right.
I do think it is sad that more Americans don't get out of the US & visit other places to see what the rest of the world has to offer, but it's a personal decision & I can't force anyone to travel! I can however tell you that international travel (flights) can be much cheaper at times than flights within the US, but then you have to contend with the Euro, the Pound, or whatever the local currency is, & the exchange rate at the moment isn't the greatest at least for Europe.
I guess the only last thing I want to say on this topic is that you should always be proud of where you came from (whether it's America, England, Bangladesh, or New Zealand) but remember to be respectful of the country you are in, ie if the national anthem comes on, you don't have to sing it at the top of your lungs, but you should stand & be respectful - that's my thoughts & advice for the day.
What are your thoughts on this?
Suppose I should get back to my real work now, but before I go, check out our weekend weather and doesn't the last photo on this page look kinda like my dad (I know it's my cousin, but I suddenly saw a family resemblace!)



At 25 April, 2007 16:16, Blogger Jilly Bean said...

I'm confused about the notion that few Americans travel internationally. I thought the numbers were way up vs 20 or 40 years ago. College students are much more frequently studying abroad. My husband and I love love love to travel to Europe, though I have to admit that we've never been to Canada. Montreal sounds lovely, but I'd rather go to Italy if I can only chose one destination. And to be honest, I'm not so sure that the American public holds Canadians (overall) in the highest regard. I think the ambivelence is mutual though I don't really understand why.

At 25 April, 2007 16:20, Blogger Sara said...

Yes, the numbers may be up from years past but if you look at the stats on how many Americans hold passports you'd be AMAZED how low the number is!

Montreal is wonderful, but I have to say if given the choice I'd probably chose Italy over it any day as well & I have never been, it's on the "to do" list!

At 25 April, 2007 18:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i totally agree about sometimes just saying you are canadian to avoid the pointless arguments! i grew up overseas, but i am american, and i always felt like i was thrown into "heated discussions" about US foreign policy, when i'd rather have a normal conversation about music or movies or something. it's unfortunate that we sometimes feel the need to pretend to be a different nationality just to avoid having to explain or defend. i want to be proud of where i come from, and not be forced to justify bad decisions certain politicians or leaders have made.

At 25 April, 2007 20:20, Blogger PCS said...

I agree that international travel is fruitful. But unlike many countries in Europe, the USA is a huge country and there is an awful lot to see in our own country. Maybe that is one reason Americans tend to stay home.

You didn't mention whether C's parents enjoyed their cavity searches.

At 26 April, 2007 00:30, Blogger PCS said...

And, what about this?

At 26 April, 2007 17:51, Anonymous mommio said...

I am proud of you and also proud to be an American, though I find some of our actions very disturbing--this apparent neo-imperialism. Our large size and physical isolation from the rest of the world prpobably helps us to less aware of other countries. I am appalled by American's general lack of knowledge about the rest of the world. But that's our education system. And a point to make about "traveling" abroad--that doesn't mean that we really learn about other cultures, especially if we stay in hotels with large groups of Americans and just stick together. You, Sara, have certainly taken the opportunity to learn about others. You are open to anyone and talk and discuss with them what their lives are like where they come from.

Love, Mommio


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