Photo: Me in front of my laptop…a familiar site!
It’s been one year…one year since I left home. I can’t remember what it feels like to be home anymore. I left wondering if I could even last 3 months. I’ve had a privileged experience – one in which I’ve grown…into someone that I hardly recognize anymore. I firmly believe that you can really know what it means to be American until you step out of America. It’s such a strange experience to step outside your culture for this long, and look back in from the outside. I’m scared with what I see at times.
As I look in, there are things that I dislike, such as work life balance, lack of extended family relations, and the ‘bigger is better’ view. Yet I have to wonder if the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you can do anything’ attitude that Americans have is really what put us in the place we are in today…a world leader. Yet at what price? I hate the fact that President Bush has ruined the view of America to the rest of the world. I honestly don’t know if he deserves the sole blame, as there are many people that are part of his organization, but it is a true – 90% of the outside world doesn’t like him and his American-Sized ego. Unfortunately he’s our ambassador to the world…and he’s not representing us to well at this moment. I’m not meaning to blame it on Republicans – as Democrats just as easily could have put us in this position – all it takes is a big ego, tunnel vision, and some bad advice – hell – that could be anyone. Sorry, I digress, as I hate talking politics, but it’s important to know that for those of you who haven’t traveled out of the country – not everyone wants to be an American – we are not necessarily envied. Today as I went through the security check at Dehli domestic airport, the security guy looked at my passport and said, where are you from? I said, “America”. He then mumbled something I didn’t understand and I asked him to repeat it. He said “Do you like Hilary Clinton, do you think she will win?” He was clearly in favor of a Clinton White House again. I found this whole line of questioning surprising…yet it’s been happening all over the world to me.
Don’t get me wrong – I love our country. I am a very fortunate to have been born there. There’s not many other places I’d rather be living as a woman…our opportunities are endless there. I see how women are treated in other parts of the world – their roles are very different, their opportunities are few.
I often get asked the question – what have you learned. With that question I could give you an endless list of answers such as; not all poor are unhappy, not all Muslims hate Americans, not all Muslims are militant, a smile is the universal language, it’s important to dance every chance you get, you can’t dislike something until you’ve tried it yourself someone who wears a turban is not necessarily Muslim or a terrorist, you can eat raw vegetables in 3rd world countries, Italian food is the only food that is truly worldwide, Twizzlers aren’t sold outside the US, if you roll your clothes instead of fold them you can fit much more into a suitcase, airline security standards are different all over the world, traffic rules aren’t always necessary, and the list could go on and on. The world is a complex place and I am truly lucky to see as much of it as I have.
I feel like I will need time…time think about these experiences that I’ve had, the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met. When you see something new every single day, it’s overwhelming. Some days I feel as if my head will explode with all of the newness. It challenges your stereotypes, your concept of right and wrong, or good and bad, of socially acceptable and unacceptable. One thing is for sure, I will need some time to just sort it all out in my head.
I was supposed to be coming home now, yet I’m knee deep in India and plan to head off to Laos, Malaysia, and China this fall. A year goes so fast – especially when you don’t want it to end – or are afraid for it to end. I cried when I left back in September – my future was scary, but I know I will cry hardest when I have to come back and try to go through the most difficult cultural adjustment yet – being back in the US. Until then, I keep avoiding it and finding more places to go. Right now – I plan on coming back by the 1st of December. Yet I never said how long I would stay – as there’s a part of me that says it never really has to end…it may just take a different form.