Sunday, May 29, 2011

I'm Proud to be an American

(Written on 4/11/2011 en route to Athens, Greece...again)

Standing at the airport is always amusing to me – watching planes come in from all over the world.  And watching the departure board flicker through a myriad of different destinations.  Today I’m in Zurich, waiting to get back to Athens – and I am enthralled by the Swiss Alps in the distance with all the greenery and cute houses in the foreground.  How I’d love to go and discover Switzerland!!!  But I’m trying to “stay” on my path…kind of.
As I wait and watch planes from Thai Airways, Lufthansa, GermanWings and countless others I’ve never even heard of, I can't help but wonder where everybody around me is going and what they’re going for.  If I could read minds I could sit in the airport for hours as kids bounce around excited for their vacations, business “suits” stare plain faced at their cell phones, and hippy 20-somethings trapse around slowly with giant backpacks slung over their shoulders. 
My friend Steph made fun of me once for saying, “Isn’t it crazy how everybody can be standing here and in just a few hours they will all be all over the world in different places??”  She replied, “Yes, Annie….that’s how airplanes work.”  As if I was never properly taught from the book of “How Things Work.”  (pssssshhhhhh….)
I’d love to strike up a conversation with most people in this airport and ask them where they’re going and what they’re going for.  Why there? Why now?  Unfortunately, most travellers (especially those on business) are usually in a hurry and don’t want to be bothered.  So all I can do is make up stories in my own mind about their paths and plans…which might be far more entertaining than what they’re actually doing.
As I watch the giant United and U.S. Airways planes standing by ready for takeoff, I can’t help but feel a little pang of homesickness.  It’s been 2 and a half months now since I’ve left the U.S.  And I feel this instant pride and patriotism.  When travelling abroad it’s easy to often criticize my own country.  Mostly because I believe (but it's not always true) that a lot of foreigners have preconceived notions about what Americans will be like.  And how can I blame them when the majority of things they’re exposed to from the U.S. are our media and our politics and our wars.  Thank you to “Jersey Shore”, “16 and Pregnant”, “The Real Housewives of Orange County”, George Bush, Barack Obama, and the War on Terror, many people that I meet outside of the U.S. perceive that we as a people must be in some way similar to one of those things.
Believe me…if I had to “slot” myself into one of those categories I would run screaming in the other direction.  And therefore, not everybody is enamored with our country, our actions, and the effects we have on others.  But nonetheless, I still am proud.  The U.S. is the country where I was born, the country where I was raised, and the country that I call home (at least for now.)  We may not be perfect, but we’re trying to be…just like everybody else. 
In Tunisia, Sarra joked that the U.S. must have sent me on behalf of foreign relations to help teach people that not all Americans are like what they see on T.V. (which I took as a compliment).  It made me laugh but it’s kind of true…being different from what people expect me to be is a way for me to carry my country with me.  It’s a way for me to show others that we as a people can be kind, compassionate, understanding, curious, adventurous, and humble.  And it’s a good reminder for me too - that no matter where I am or where I live, I will always be American.
I ask you today to think about what it is that you appreciate about where you’re from.  Your culture is your own – unique to where you were born, raised, and the people that shaped who you are.  What is it that you appreciate about your city or your country?  What makes you proud to be where you are from?
And a funny side note since I think you deserve something light hearted.  I found these snacks in a grocery store in Spain.  Seriously, somebody had to have been able to speak English to translate this...

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