Sometimes, I miss being "The American."
I have lived abroad twice, a year in England and a year in Australia, both in my early twenties. Living abroad is something I highly recommend – it gives you a sense of self, a sense of how deeply and unconsciously your homeland shapes your every thought. A small example – soda cans in Australia are slightly bigger. This completely drove me wild for the first 2 weeks I was there. You walk into a gas (aka petrol) station, and see these stacks of cans behind the glass fridge doors, and they just don’t look right. You keep looking at them, your eye is drawn to them, because they are just a tiny bit off from what your mind has been trained to expect. Of course, once I returned home a year later, I had the same problem with our smaller cans, and it took me a couple of months to readjust. Such a small thing, but it had never occurred to me before to think about soda can size. It’s pretty much standard – and who came up with it? Who decided that 12 ounces was the perfect amount of soda for a single serving? Why did they think differently in Australia? Was it just because 375 mL sounds good? These aren’t terribly important questions, I suppose, but they can lead to some questions that are. Who sets the standards for what is a "safe" auto body? Who decided that 11 ounces of meat was a perfect amount for a restaurant steak dinner? Who determined the rules for vetting prospective adoptive parents, who picked your child’s science textbook, who designed the machine that records your votes? Wow, we depend on the integrity of a heck of a lot of people, and checking back over their work is in many cases impossible, and at the very least a full time job. We just have to take a deep breath and leap into our cars, take half of our steak home (or two thirds, more like), and know what’s going on in our children’s schools. It takes a lot of work and a lot of trust to be alive and a success in a complex civilized world, doesn’t it?
But we are alive, and I am lucky enough to be alive in the relatively progressive country that is America. And I do love it here, I’m glad I was born here. But however comma, I do love leaving it once in a while for a jaunt abroad. I admit it – I am an attention loving little diva, and I do adore being the foreign girl in the room. Even if my air of foreign mystery is somewhat hampered by the fact that I’m from the most overexposed country on earth (for good or bad, it’s hard to deny). I met some real characters I met while getting my MA in England – I worked in a pub by night to support my education habit, and anyone who’s been to England knows that its culture is rooted in the English public house. I studied, and worked, and went out on the town – I read Shakespearean quartos by day and cleaned up fag ash by night, and it was just great. Sometimes I give a little sigh at my desk here in little ole North Carolina, and miss those days. And sometimes I remember the bum pinches and smell of beer in my hair, and think maybe I’m in the right place after all . . .