Friday, July 05, 2013

Independent Nations

Well, another 4th of July has come and gone. I have now spent the U.S.A. Independence Day in five different countries, and it's always fun to gather with a few "fellow Americans" when in some far-flung spot on the globe and rustle up some patriotic feelings, or at least some hot dogs and beer. Actually, we rustled up fajitas for dinner last night, at one of Guangzhou's Irish pubs, in a gathering of folks that included nationals of the U.S.A., Canada, Scotland, New Zealand, and China. I suppose that in itself is very "American dreamy" in some viewpoint or other. I might add that I drank Dos Equis. Hey, I don't always celebrate the 4th in the land formerly known as Canton, but when I do...they are sometimes out of the Pure Blonde Ale that was actually my first choice order.
Earlier in the evening I had a small cup of Budweiser during our beer toast (!) to the U.S. at work, as I taught a little "4th of July hour" for the students. We had a bit of history (why 1776? why split off from England -- what's wrong with them?  why are there 50 stars and 13 stripes? etc.), a little bit of vocabulary (eagle, Statue of Liberty, White House, basically a collage of U.S.A.-like images), a bit of totally differing perspectives (they don't think of Guam as anywhere near China and in fact said "But it's much closer to Japan than here" whereas I think of Guam as "about the same distance" from Hong Kong/Japan -- and I'm living closer to Guam now than I ever have before), and a little bit of arguing when I busted out the Budweiser. "That's not an American beer!" they protested. I mean, first of all, oh-so-appreciative students, you're welcome. Right?!  Secondly, my boss just offered to get something simple for the 4th of July and I said, hey, why not Budweiser? But, see, they actually bottle some Budweiser right here in China. (Hence it being easily available without having to seek out a specialty store with a vast imported beer selection.) So my students were completely prepared to sit there and talk about how it's not an American beer. But, I mean, it is. Coca-Cola bottles stuff all over the world (they were among the first to "think globally, act locally")  but it's still an "American product," no? Or McDonald's and KFC -- also everywhere, here. It was so weird. It's freaking Budweiser. I'm sure many people have accused Budweiser of many things, but I never thought anyone would ever accuse it of being Chinese.
It all makes you think, doesn't it, in this globally connected economy and internet of ours? What does it mean to be anything? I hate the co-opting of "American," which actually refers to two entire continents, so I phrase my question thus: "What does it mean to be United Statesian?"


Anonymous said...

Linda, Great report on your 4th of July festivities. Fajitas in an Irish Pub in China. Dos Equis. Nice take on the most interesting man in the world. You might be one of the most interesting women in the world, what with all your travel experiences and perspectives and all.

I am in your ballpark with the "American" thing. What part of America? It stretches from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Ocean. I prefer "US'ns". I don't like "Yanks", because that can have north/south aspects. When I was in Mexico, they referred to the "US'ns" as Norteamericanos. I asked about Canada, and the answer I got was "Oh, they are Canadian." So, maybe Norteamericanos? Not to digress, but your knowledge and wit as well as perspective might appreciate this one: I was listening to NPR this morning, and Jill Replable was reporting from San Diego, about the governor of Baja California. I felt like contacting NPR to comment; it's like talking about the governor of Dakota or Carolina. Aargh. But alas I was preoccupied with other ventures.

Great opportunity to talk with your Chinese folks (students?) about some US history relative to the 4th of July and independence. That is such cool stuff, makes learning English (or is it "USian?" ala Henry Higgins), be more alive and real.

Do you bring sports into the discussions and lessons very much?

Anonymous said...


In your blog you asked "What does it mean to be anything?" I think back to my youth in the hot bed of independence, yeah the birthplace of our country. There was fierce ethnic pride, which today would probably be viewed racist or bigoted. The various ethnicities were tight, but had each others' back when it came to living the American("USian"?) dream. I think with today's culture wherein nobody can be, do or say anything without it being politically incorrect, a lot of life has gone out of life. Dad

linda said...

Everyone likes to remember how different things were in their good ol' days. It's rarely true either that things were exactly as we recall them OR that things are all that different now.

I happen to completely disagree with you that "nobody can be, do or say anything without it being politically incorrect." I think a lot of you get riled up at the label "politically correct" and the way it was bandied about and then you project that anger onto the (actually noble) goal of ridding society's institutions of ingrained, systemic bias. Which is sort of like getting mad at algebra because you don't like having to stop and wait at a train crossing when you're late for work.

But in the spirit of togetherness, here's a dumb, cross-cultural joke for you: A Roman centurion walks into a bar and orders a martinus. The bartender says, "Don't you mean a martini?" The centurion says, "If I wanted a double, I would have ordered that!"

Brian and I just did NBA finals lessons, including a basketball quiz. Nobody guesses correctly that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the all-time leading scorer!