Jamit America!

I remember the first time I came home to the states for a visit and felt reverse culture shock.  The first shock was the Home Security video they showed all of the passengers on the KLM flight as we approached LAX.  I was both happy to be home and utterly embarassed by my country as I watched it as an American who had now been living abroad for over a year.  I not only saw the video from an American perspective - what a safe country! How lucky we are to live in such wealth! America the great! But also as a foreigner - Who do these Americans think they are? What a ridiculous film! Can we please spoof this on Youtube immediately?! I also noticed that the film was in English and only English with Spanish subtitles thrown in for good measure....somehow to say, we are so international and accommodating to you foreigners. I looked around me at the other passengers and listened as I heard yes, maybe some Spanish, but also French, German, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Portugese...did they all speak either English or Spanish? Did they understand our Home Security video and the importance of filling out their customs declaration and giving their fingerprints and photo to our customs officers? I'm not so sure....

My next shock occured as I walked through the airport, suitcase in hand, excited to see my parents in the Arrivals area.  I had gone through Amsterdam Schiphol airport (awarded best airport bathrooms by Moi in 2004!) to get here and in comparison LAX was a complete and utter shithole.  After watching The Video which made our country out to be so amazing seeming to be made with the intention to instill envy in the hearts off all non-Americans, LAX certainly didn't back up the message. It was like purchasing an all-inclusive resort vacation online only to realize when you show up at the supposedly 5-star hotel that it was all a scam - the beach resort is actually located in the desert and the beach is a four-hour drive away. The bed creaks when you sit on it to unpack your suitcase and the bathroom smells like mildew.  You want your money back!

I was assured that America would redeem itself and the fact that my parents were there did help the country to go up about a million points but then we got in the car and proceeded to drive inch home on the 5 freeway.  About 2.5 hours later we arrived at our humble abode, my childhood home which is normally - when facing no traffic during a one-hour window during the day - a thirty to forty-five minute journey.  After walking, busing or metroing it everywhere in France, this was difficult to deal with.  How had my parents driven over an hour to work and sometimes even 3 hours back home everyday of their adult lives? How could I EVER live here again and deal with THIS?

A few other shocks during that particular trip home were the gigantic toilet paper rolls from Costco and my Dad's need to park in front of the tortilla store for tortilla pick up and then roll forward in his F250 (Ginormous Ford truck) about ten feet to pick up meat at the meat store. Walking ten feet in southern California heat was apparently not an option.  I also remember feeling like I might vomit after eating a sandwich and salad combination menu from the mall food court all by myself.  It was marketed as a one-person meal but it was obviously either made for two or made to take home in a doggie bag.  How did I never notice this before???

All of this living in France had completely changed my vision of the world and my day to day lifestyle.  Why were we eating dinner at 6pm? Why did dinner last only twenty minutes?! Why all this driving? ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh  I felt lost - neither American nor French - just this weird combination of cultures who didn't completely understand either one.  I was a Framerican and didn't fit in either country - the only solace was found with other Framericans who got it.  And to top it all off as my French was exceling my English was going down the shitter.  I couldn't find my words, couldn't recall how we referred to certain things.  I felt like I had a mental block- the English word I wanted to use would only pop into my head in French.

I will admit however that there were certain luxuries that my French life did not have...little things like bath towels fluffed and dried with Bounce in the dryer, air conditioning in the middle of summer, and a glass full of ICE water. Where I loved all of these things, I couldn't help but recognize the waste that all of these "luxuries" produced as I had lived quite comfortably without them for some time now.  I air-dried my towels which admittedly made them crunchy but they worked. I invested in fans in the summer and ate frozen melon balls as relief from the heat. And I sweat my ass off, but I survived.  I forgot that I used to love ice water and just refilled bottles of water that I kept cold in the fridge.  I forgot that I missed all of those things.

As time has gone on I have fully adopted certain French ways of life and I miss them when I visit home.  And there is always the American in me that scoffs at certain things that are "lacking" in France.  (I admit it, I still do really love air conditioning when the summer heat makes you want to DIE).  But I have learned (am still learning) to appreciate each country for the good parts it has to offer - to try and laugh at the things that are just so American or just so French.

I was reminded of this as I boarded the first "American" leg of my flight from Chicago O'Hare to LAX this trip home.  As I took my seat in 19D next to another countryman, I could smell the faint odor of fries...and sure enough my fellow American did not fail me! Out came the McDonald's burger, fries and a supersized coke for his trip home.  Last night I was relishing one of my mom's magazines (she saves them for me when I come home - thanks Mom!!!) and I was looking through the "Gift Guide for Men." They had your typical 'like-new-again t-shirts," root-beer liquor, a "golf and coffee cup," "the beer book" but also (and this is my personal favorite) - Bacon Jam.  Let me say it again - Bacon Jam. Here is what they say about it (quoted from Real Simple magazine, December 2009): This savory blend of bacon, onions, spices and balsamic vinegar is perfect for your pork-loving 'oinkle.' Spread it on grilled cheese, burgers and toast.

And as I read it, I smiled.  Because seriously, that is so American.

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  1. You're HILARIOUS! Bacon Jam rocks the very foundation of my "oinkle" loving American heart! Also, sounds like you're in a bit of a cultural pickle, being now a half breed. Have some kids and then you can really feel the split! I heart you!! You're an amazing writer, I'm going to read your blog everyday!

  2. im so torn Josh Rader! You hit the nail on the head...I'll see if I can find some vegan facon jam for you for my next trip over:-) hahahaha update the D.O. for Debo!


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