In 2006 I took my very first trip abroad. I knew there was a lot of anti-American, or at least anti-American government sentiment in Europe and I had actually contemplated pretending to be Canadian to avoid any conflict. I didn't though, even through all the crap we've been through in the last 7+ years, I love my deeply flawed country very much, and would not deny my citizenship for anything. Still, it was difficult when I had my first (of many) 'political discussions' with someone from another country. It typically went something like this:
Local: Where you come from?
Local (in nearly incomprehensible accent): Aaaaaaah Geeeorjze Buuush!
Then I would proceed, as far as I was able in the native language (and largely non-verbally), to express that I did not vote for him, I did not approve of his policies, and was completely disgusted that he'd been been elected to a second term. The local would nod and agree and we'd share a moment of bitter solidarity.
This conversation took place in France, and in the Netherlands, and it's taken place a number of times in Thailand... it was usually the first topic brought up when I introduced myself to my new classes. I've shared these conversations (on my blog or in person) with a laugh, but honestly it's been hard. It's hard for me to reconcile my love for my country with my complete disapproval of everything that we've done on the international stage: going to war with Iraq over non-existant WMDs, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, the fact that Osama Bin Laden is *still* on the loose, 'intelligent design', the anti-homosexual legislation, and now the financial crisis on top of it. I know I can't blame (still president) Bush for all of that... but it happened on his watch and I think he can take some blame for inaction or inappropriate action if nothing else. In any case, I've gotten used to that conversation.
Today I had a good day. I spent a glorious morning at the beach with Bobby and Bunny. The weather was perfect and with the exception of a handful of kids we had about a mile of beach all to ourselves. For lunch I enjoyed crab fried rice (cooked crab) with my toes in the sand listening to the waves splash on the sand. I had two private classes this evening and all went well. Then after work I went to the market next to Tesco for dinner.
I picked up some mango & sticky rice for dessert, and surprise buns for breakfast tomorrow, then I saw a noodle dish that I wanted to try. After indicating that I wanted some I tried to ask what the dish was called... "duck" they replied. There was a little duck statue on the table, so I had actually figured that out... so I asked what the word was in Thai. They told me and I repeated it a few times (and of course I've forgotten it now) going back and forth trying to get the pronunciation at least moderately close. The conversation wrapped up in the predictable fashion.
Local: Where you come from?
Local (in nearly incomprehensible accent): Aaaaah Baaah-raaahk Oooob-ama
Me (slowly deciphering the words): Oh, Barak Obama! Yes!
I gave a little cheer, and they smiled and cheered back, and as I walked away I burst into tears.
It's like having been in an abusive situation.... you put up with it because you don't have a choice (or feel like you don't have a choice), and you fight back only to realize your own powerlessness. Eventually you stuff your feelings and get used to feeling like crap all the time. And it's only when you get out of the situation, when you realize you're safe that you can finally let go of all the emotions you'd been holding back. I feel so much joy right now for the direction the US is taking, but also sooo much grief, so much pain over what we've suffered under the Bush administration, and a fair amount of dread over how much work and how much time it will take to dig us out of this mess. But today, getting to hear the name "Baaah-raaahk Oooob-ama" associated with me and my country made me feel pretty fantastic.
TAG - Code Mango with a side of Apple Pie