First, I love my country and I’m proud to be an American, most of the time. That being said, “sometimes I get mad at America” and I’m not talking about the political climate. Second, life abroad isn’t always sunshine and roses. Sometimes, I get mad at China too…..remember when I couldn’t log on to Facebook or use google because my VPN was down or that time I was sick and only had a squatty potty or when my government controlled heat wasn’t working in December. But this isn’t about why I sometimes get mad at China. I’ll save that for another time.
I have lived in a communist country and traveled much of this part of the world for the better part of nearly 4 years. Every single day when I log on to to Facebook, watch a YouTube video, save a recipe on Pinterest, look something up on google, use google translate or like today as I write my blog that says, “sometimes I get mad at America, I am reminded of and thankful for my basic freedoms as an American. Most of the people I know in China, do not have access to these sites and don’t even know what Pinterest is, let alone anyone dares say, “sometimes I get mad at China”. So, why does this make me mad at America? I see us as a country abusing our freedoms. Freedoms that our ancestors fought to give us. I believe in our freedoms, but let’s take freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has brought us “fake news”. Fake news that many, myself included, have passed on as factual and thus snowballing. Yes, I know fake news isn’t just an American problem, but shouldn’t we be above this? Shouldn’t we use our freedom of speech in a more positive way? Just recently in China, an article came out saying China had shut down base camp at Mount Everest to tourists because of litter and abuse of the area. Saddened, as I had spent one of my most amazing journeys at EBC, I reposted the article. A few days later, I found out the article was “fake news”. China had closed base camp to tourists, but not for the reasons stated in the original article. The article also informed me that the government had shut down over 100,000 websites and deleted over 500,000 articles that were deemed fake. Can you imagine this happening in the US? No! Yet, we continue to abuse our freedom of speech and it makes me angry. This is just one example of our lack of respect for our freedoms.
The “Ugly American”, unfortunately, I have witnessed this. Americans abroad who don’t respect another culture, who think everyone in the world should speak English. To quote Clifton Fadiman, “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” What is so difficult about learning one simple word, a word of greeting in the land you are visiting? Granted, my Chinese language skills leave much to be desired, but I try learning simple greetings and phrases. I try to do this prior to traveling to any country on my journey. I have a phrase I “pinned”, it states, “I’m a survivalist, I can ask for coffee in six languages”.
Then there is the ugly American who loudly exclaims, “Oh my god, we would never eat that in America”, or “why can’t you speak English, or “the health department would shut this place down”, or “they don’t even have proper toilets here”, etc. I have witnessed them all. No, Americans abroad aren’t the only “ugly” tourists, I have witnessed Chinese tourists in Paris pushing and shoving, talking loudly, etc., but I’m not Chinese, I’m American and don’t like seeing Americans behaving badly. It makes me angry when we as Americans disrespect another culture. When foreigners come to our shores, we expect them to have some basic knowledge of English and respect our customs. Let’s do the same when we visit theirs and let’s be more accepting of foreigners when they visit ours.
We as Americans are materialistic. I get angry at myself when I think about how much “shit” I have in storage in the US. Life abroad certainly teaches you to live simply or more simply than you would in America. Which makes me mad at myself again, when I think about what I have acquired in 2 years in Dong’e. I have more clothes than all the teachers at my kindergarten put together and they all fit in one wardrobe and a couple sets of drawers. How do I know this? I felt guilty when I had a group of my co-workers over and they went on and on about how much “stuff” I had.
Even though I think I live simply compared to being in America, it is still not as simple as most in Dong’e. Simple for me is a manual washing machine. I fill it by a valve, turn it on and when the wash cycle is finished, I turn a knob to drain and repeat the process. When I think my clothes have been washed and rinsed enough, I drain and then transfer the sopping clothes to the other side which is a spinner. I spin the clothes in batches and then hang to dry as I have no dryer. To me this is living simply, to others, it is a luxury. I had a woman and her daughter staying with me when I first arrived. She was new in town, single mom, working for Peter. He asked if she could stay with me until she found a place. After all, I do have 3 bedrooms. Until I showed her how to use my “washing machine”, she washed all of their clothes by hand and wrung them out by hand. I guess you could say that is living simply. In the states, I have a car to jump into whenever I want, here, I had a scooter, lately, I have had my 2 feet. Although I will have my scooter back at some point, I have learned to manage without. Not only do I get angry at America for being materialistic, but I also get angry at myself. Living abroad and traveling you realize how much stuff you don’t need.
I’m just going to touch on this next thing briefly….healthcare. After a few experiences with healthcare in China, it makes me angry about healthcare in America. We are overmedicated, overcharged for services, drug costs are outrageous, we have an opioid crisis, and insurance costs are inflated. When I sprained my ankle here in China, I eventually went to the hospital where I had an MRI and x-rays, I saw 3 doctors and had a consultation with an orthopedic specialist….total bill without insurance…$75. I’m not sure I could see one doctor in America for even an office visit without insurance for $75 let alone an MRI or x-ray. After a few visits to the local hospital, including one extended stay, I question healthcare in America. Enough said.
What has happened to random acts of kindness? I just read a Facebook post from a friend who was unhappy, maybe even angry about the fact that it was “freezing outside” as she drove by a walker. She was upset because she was afraid to pull over and offer a ride. They would most likely be as afraid of her as she was of them. It bothered her that we, as a culture, as Americans, have lost trust in our fellow man. It too makes me angry that we have so much violence and hate in America that random acts of kindness of this type just don’t happen because it isn’t safe. Sure, people pay for the coffee of the car behind them in a drive-thru or donate to a “go fund me”….it’s safe and it makes you feel good, but when was the last time you had a face to face encounter with a complete stranger? They are few and far between. Living in a country that has strict gun laws, strict drug laws and a low incidence of violent crime, I have had several opportunities to experience random acts of kindness. You can read about one here.
What got me started on this whole, “sometimes I get mad at America” idea was after I told the following story to a friend in Warren. I was in Phuket. Every day I walked, or my host family took me by motorcycle to Surin Beach. I would spend my days getting a massage, walking the beach, stopping for lunch and a cocktail, sometimes taking the cocktail and sitting on the beach after lunch. Then I would stroll to a bar/restaurant just off the beach and chat with the staff and enjoy happy hour until sunset. The first evening as I was leaving to head back to the beach, the young lady behind the bar asked if I wanted to take a drink with me while I walked to the beach and enjoy it during sunset. With uncertainty, I replied, “it’s okay to walk down the street with a drink?” She kind of looked at me funny and said, “of course.” I explained to her that except for certain restricted areas, it isn’t allowed in the United States. So began my nightly ritual…beach…bar…..drink to go…sunset. The more I thought about it, it made me a little mad. In Thailand, I can get a drink and walk down the street….in China, I can take a bottle of wine and sit by the lake….in Paris, I can take a bottle of wine to any park or sit with my friends on the steps of the Sacre Coeur and watch sunset while enjoying a glass of champagne. In all of these situations and more I haven’t mentioned, I have never witnessed drunk and disorderly people, no fights and most everyone picks up after themselves. I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice, when I’m living in downtown Warren to sit in Courthouse Park on a warm summer evening or a crisp autumn night with friends and enjoy some adult beverages and a few laughs. But no……there might be a drunken brawl. As I was telling her my random thoughts, she said I should write about it.
So, there you have it, sometimes I do get mad at America. I don’t intend this to come off as an angry post, because 99% of the time I’m just a happy go lucky American girl who happens to live in China for the moment. There’s nothing like getting off your plane after a year or more abroad and seeing the American flag and hearing the immigration officials say, “welcome home”. I can’t change America or the world with my blog posts, but I can share my thoughts and experiences, good and bad. I can share a smile with a stranger. I can continue to learn to live more simply. I can check my sources before passing on “fake news”. I can worship in a Buddhist temple, attend a Hindu ceremony or visit a mosque because I have freedom of religion. I can make my voice heard by exercising my right to vote, even from afar. I can tell people in this part of the world that despite what they hear about mass shootings, police brutality, the opioid/drug crisis, etc., I really do live in one of the greatest countries in the world. I can tell them that I love my country and I am proud to be an American. But most importantly, I can show them. Another thing my father always told us, “actions speak louder than words”.