It's the fourth of July... and here that's all it is. I'm not going to lie. I'm sad. I'm really really sad. This is my favorite holiday. I am an unapologetic patriotic sap. I love the BBQs, I love the fireworks, I love going to minor league baseball games and heckling the outfielders. I regularly entertain myself by singing the National Anthem or America the Beautiful. I am very sad that I don't really get to celebrate it this year. Even if I wanted to, I don't really have any American friends here to celebrate with. The other American teacher called today and when I wished him a happy 4th he replied "oh, yeah, I forgot." without even a "yeah, you too"
So this year, I'm going to throw myself a pity party and tell you what I miss about grand old United States of America and why you shouldn't take them for granted.
1. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
There are topics I'm about bursting to write about here but simply won't. Yeah, there's a 99.9% chance 'the authorities' would never find out about it, but if they did there would be a genuine risk of being sent to jail. Not a risk I'm willing to take.
Censorship isn't as bad in Thailand as it is in many countries, but it is noticeable. Certain websites are blocked if they are considered 'immoral' or if they are disrespectful to the royal family. I've tried looking up things about Thailand on Wikipedia - an arguably neutral source - and run into road block after road block. There are all these protests going on right now and some significant speeches have been posted online... but I just can't access them. Certain movies have been banned, I'm sure a number of books have as well. Obviously there are ways around all of these censors... but still, it's such a shock to this American girl that I can't say or read whatever I want to.
Very nearly as important as that:
2. Western toilets. Toilets that don't require squatting, or a bucket of water to flush them. The ability to flush toilet paper down the toilet instead of collecting it in a foul smelling garbage can beside the pot.
3. Hotdogs in hotdog buns. You can get hotdogs, they are actually quite abundant here. You can buy them at the market, skewered on a stick and attractively snipped along the sides. You can also get them at 7/11. The clerk will helpfully slice them up, dump them in a plastic bag, cover them with sweet & sour sauce and hand you a stick to eat them with. I know they have hotdog buns here, I've seen them. I've just never seen them within fifty paces of an actual hotdog. Do you know what they do with them? They serve ICE CREAM in them! I swear to maude I am not making this up. I walked down the street and saw an ice cream vendor carefully placing two scoops of vanilla ice cream in a hotdog bun and handing it off to a delighted customer. OH THE HUMANITY!
4. Cheese.... I don't want to talk about it.
5. TV. I admit it. I admit it. I miss So You Think You Can Dance and Extreme Makeover Home Edition, PBS Documentaries, Lost, Food Network, all of it ALL OF IT! Yeah, of course they have TV here, but it's all in Thai. I've been stuck watching DVDs, and it's just not the same. If I were home right now I'd be parked in front of the TV and I'm just fine with that.
So you know, if you're lucky enough to be in the States right now go enjoy a hotdog (in bun), munch a bit of cheese for me, flip on the boob tube, go ahead and critique the president, and tonight when you sit on your porcelain thrown, know you're doing so in the greatest nation on Earth.
Or .... you know... at least my favorite one.
Happy Fourth of July everyone!
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