4th of July in Jacksonville last year
A couple of years ago, when we first began talking about this trip and suggested that a friend should come meet us abroad, he responded, "Why? I mean, I love America." We were indignant. We don't travel abroad because we hate America. If anything, we have become more patriotic and proud of our nation after traveling abroad because we have come to appreciate those things that most Americans take for granted.
Fireworks in Jacksonville
The rainbow of skin tones. In the United States, we do not blink an eye when we see people with caramel, cream, and chocolate skin tones walking across the street together. My friends have blue, brown, black, and hazel eyes and hair that ranges from brilliant blonde to jet black. On the other hand, in Asia, Patrick is treated like a rock star because of his white skin, blue eyes, and brown hair; children ask to pose with him for pictures and he has been interviewed for television twice in the last month and a half. I, on the other hand, am a different sort of oddity; in these countries, pale skin is treasured as beautiful, and my dark skin confuses, and perhaps disgusts, them. We met a Chinese person who could not understand why a Chinese woman would date an African American ---- not because of the ethnic differences --- but, because the African American's skin "was so bad." Of course, America still has a long way to go as far as race relations are concerned, but, a huge first step is simply living in a society where diversity is the norm.
Grilling out on the 4th
Pizza, tacos, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and apple pie. Foreigners always ask us to define "American food." "Is it just McDonalds hamburgers and french fries?" they ask. "No," I respond, much to their confusion, "American food is the food of everywhere, the food of its immigrants." If you look at that list above, every single item originated from an immigrant . . . because, America is a land of immigrants. Italian immigrants introduced pizza on the streets of New York, Mexican immigrants introduced tacos to Texas and California border towns, German immigrants introduced hot dogs and hamburgers, and the early English colonists brought over recipes for apple pie. Today, we can get darn good food from almost every country in our American cities and towns. In Asia, continental cuisine is expensive and usually sub-par; in Europe, the same is true with Asian fare (though Indian food is outstanding in the United Kingdom); in Australia and New Zealand, we couldn't find any decent Mexican (or any dish without french fries for that matter). Sure, we don't get everything in the United States, but, what we have is more diverse than much of the rest of the world.
the Blue Bridge lit up in Jacksonville last year
Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart, Sean Hannity and Al Franken, and Imus and Nancy Grace. I don't watch or listen to most of these guys (and I bet you can guess which ones we religiously watch) but they are all questioning, searching, and hoping to find some truths to convey to the public. In the United States, we have the problem of too much information and it is hard to find the truth amidst the swamp of the media, but, at least, we get that information. Thailand erupted into bloody riots shortly after we left because the former prime minister was ousted by the military elite without any democratic vote. We just visited the North Korean border, perhaps the most bizarre place on the planet, where university educated students do not know any current government leaders. We are in China where words are frequently blurred out of foreign news reports and sporting events, deleting advertisements or news tickers that the rest of the world can see. Thank goodness for our First Amendment.
Veggie burgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. Yum.
Backyards and green grass. Other than the United States and Australia, we haven't been anywhere else where backyards are simply large lawns with green grass. In most big cities across the world, just as in San Francisco and New York, a backyard is the ultimate luxury, while in small cities and towns in Asia and Europe, backyards are either bricked in patios with potted plants or dusty shrubbery-devoid plots used to hang up laundry. Right now, Americans are heading outdoors, pulling out patio chairs onto green grass, and firing up the grills.
We have to admit that we're a bit jealous but hope you are having a good Independence Day, celebrating the day our forefathers penned the words that formed our nation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."