Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Happy Independence Day

I arrived back into the states late yesterday, just in time for our nation’s birthday. My journey home took me from Frankfurt through Cincinnati to Houston. It was a long, exhausting trip, and it was interesting to be surrounded by so many Americans for the first time in six weeks. Now I am on a flight to Washington, DC, to begin my time as housewife to my beloved Jeremy – a prospect I am looking forward to after so much time away this year. I know this means that I am on my third plane in two days, but I am used to this pace of travel.

My friends Michael and Cody picked me up at the airport last night, and we sped to downtown Houston for dinner. The highways were fairly empty, although I marveled at the sheer size of American cars – they are tanks compared to the cars in Europe.

Whenever I am away from the States, my tradition is to eat a burger the first chance I get. Burgers are the one type of food I crave while I am away, and I refuse to eat them while I am abroad. Sure, I’m afraid of mad-cow disease and all that, but more importantly they simply don’t taste anywhere near as good. As we sat in Barnaby’s, eating our burgers, Michael and Cody asked me about the details of my trip. I told them about the wonderful time I had, how the show went well, how good Jeremy was with the language when he came to visit, about my good times with Nadine, and about the great food I had. When the subject of dining abroad came up, Michael mentioned that he thought the culture in Europe allowed people to enjoy their time more. Six weeks vacation, no waiter bothering you with the bill at dinner until you ask for it, stores closing at 7:00pm, almost nothing open on Sundays – he has a point. In the first three weeks of rehearsal for Finta there were three random holidays in which we didn’t rehearse at all. When I work in the States, it’s debatable if I’ll have Easter or Christmas off.

When Jeremy came to visit for the premiere of Finta, he and I got into a heated debate about how he felt about being American. He was a little apprehensive before his arrival, because he was embarrassed about his nationality. When I mentioned this to Nadine, she shared his feeling. Yes, I understand we are not the perfect nation – by far. We are propagating an empire through globalization, are at war for reasons that get more and more vague as time goes by, think we are above international law – I understand all of these things. These were many of the points that both Jeremy and Nadine pointed out to me during this debate, as well as how Americans don’t know how to enjoy food, are constantly in a rush, are insanely wasteful people, and are incapable of learning a foreign language. I see these points, but I also see things that are positive. There is so much that is wonderful about our country – we are a polite people, we are an intelligent people. We are a diverse people – whether we like it or not. It is part of the beauty of the principles that we seem to think our nation was founded on. America is not just one thing. It is a country full of widely disparate ideologies, religions, cultures, and people – isn’t that the point of being a free country, where you are free to be who you are and think what you think? Why is it that people see us and only think of the religious right, George W. Bush, and obesity? Yes, we may disagree on many things – but the point is that we can. I don’t think that this is a privilege to be taken lightly.

Yes, I miss Europe, it’s food, it’s diverse people, languages and cultures. But the feeling of relief that sank into my heart as I got off the plane in Houston yesterday was the reassuring, happy, contented feeling of coming home.

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