On Being American Post-Trump

on-being-american-post-trump

By about 3 a.m. local time, as my eyes were drooping and consciousness giving way to exhaustion, I realized that a Trump presidency was becoming more and more likely. I couldn’t sleep, not then. Every time I’d roll over and decide to sleep, I felt a heaviness and overwhelming need to stare at this little screen on my phone. I was watching a live update of presidential predictions–when I loaded the page I think it was around a 78% predicted chance of a Clinton win. As the night wore on, I watched the numbers come in and this little dial took control of my every emotion. Twitch to the left, twitch to the right, twitch twitch twitch. Then it wasn’t really twitching anymore, it was slipping… slipping further away and taking my comfort along with it. No, I couldn’t sleep.

By morning, I was in tears. Not heavy tears, just some sort of weird whimpering as I struggled to process the reality of the night through mental fog, emotional despair, and sheer exhaustion. What has happened? How did this happen? This will be okay. Everything has to be okay. Did this really happen?

This morning has been different. After a long and much needed sleep last night, I finally have a tiny bit of clarity settling in. Fear, confusion, despair–those things are still there. But I’ve had time to think some things through and I have a few things I need to say.

I currently reside in the UK. As the whole word is aware, there was recently a very important vote here, too. In the throes of the campaigns surrounding the EU referendum, I found myself strangely silent. I am always politically outspoken, but this time was different. I felt like I was not allowed to speak my opinion as an American, an immigrant, and a non-tax payer. I was afraid of offending my new family and of losing the very few British friends I have, especially since I live in an area that very much supported the leave campaign. Besides, I thought to myself, Britain would never, ever leave the EU anyway. It was unthinkable. Then two things seemed to happen one after another:  Jo Cox, a Labour MP and champion for immigrants, was shot and stabbed just 7 miles from my house, and Britain voted Leave. I realized much too late that I had been grossly mistaken.

The feeling I had yesterday was similar to how I felt when the results of Brexit were announced. Disillusionment, fear, confusion. The next week, when we traveled to London to register my daughter’s birth at the US Embassy, I was greeted by a message in the bus station toilet:  “Blacks, Jews, Mozzies, ALL IMMIGRANTS GET OUT.” Never before had I become so aware of my own immigrant status, coupled with the bit of privilege I carried simply by virtue of being white. These kinds of messages were/are not uncommon. In fact, race hate crimes in London alone spiked to over 2,300 in the 38 days after Brexit, and that doesn’t even include the countless instances that undoubtedly went unreported. I knew at that point, for the first time, that a Trump presidency could happen. The slim majority who voted leave were generally a poorer, less well-educated, older generation of voters. There were the people who felt disenfranchised, economically under-represented, fed up with an elitist government that they perceived as disconnected from their own interests. It was also a people who felt fearful and nostalgic for a nonexistent past–the “good old days” when homogeneity and not multiculturalism was the norm. They fell into the messages they were fed that the influx of immigrants/migrants/refugees (largely conflated due to sheer lack of understanding) was responsible for their biggest concerns:  a shortage of jobs, overstretched NHS, low wages, and overpriced housing. Does this sound familiar to my American friends? It should.

So here we are.

I feel like I really failed myself when it came to Brexit, and I failed my brothers and sisters who are refugees, migrants, immigrants, or just plain British people who happen to be brown. I failed because I didn’t do anything. I didn’t speak up. Well, I realize that now, and that ends today. I am going to get up off my haunches and find a way to reach out, to volunteer, to connect, to do anything that reminds those people now living in fear that they are loved and valued. Never again will I remain silent or nervously laugh at inappropriate jokes just because I don’t want to be perceived as annoying. Go ahead, I now welcome your eye-rolls. I believe in a better version of humanity than this, one that esteems unity and love, and it has to start somewhere. I guess I’m starting here. So first of all, American friends:  please do the same. Reach out to those around you, our friends of color, friends of other religions, LGBTQ friends, friends with disabilities, women. Be a beacon of hope. I have no doubt that the US will see the same increase of hate crime as happened here and our brothers and sisters need us more than ever.

Second, please stop talking about leaving the country. Everyone seems to want to pack up, take off, and leave it all behind to go somewhere better. I want to ask you, where is that exactly? Because the truth is that the same issues are plaguing just about every Western country right now to some degree or another. Are you going to Asia then? If you think that similar problems, including intense levels of racism, do not exist there then you have been sorely misguided. And what would you achieve, really, by running away? Would it just be a big “screw you” to a government that really doesn’t care about you? I can tell you, I am lucky enough to live abroad, and yet never before have I felt so much desire to be at home. Recognize your opportunity, your duty to remain PROUD of being American. More than half of us didn’t vote for Trump, and that is important. Most of our country still speaks a language of love and inclusion, and I am not so jaded as to recognize that includes some well-meaning people who voted for Trump, whether I can understand it or not.

That brings me to the last thing I have to say, and this is the hardest part. We need to stop hating those that voted for Trump. We need to stop preaching for inclusion and love while denying it to half our country. We need self-reflection on a massive scale. I’ll start with myself:  I would be lying if I said I have never acted self-righteous and failed to listen or try to understand viewpoints I disagreed with. I have shut people down more times than I would like to admit. I have worn my over-education like armor protecting me from being wrong. I have utilized fancy arguments and knowledge to win a debate when really I should have been listening with empathy. I have laughed at Trump supporters, laughed at their failing intelligence, laughed at their manner of speech when I should have been recognizing the education system and economic climate that failed them. I suspect if we are all honest, I am not alone. This is the role we played in Trump’s election. Rather than build bridges, we have propagated division despite our messages of unity. We need to stop. We need to try to understand the economic and social factors that are underlying and driving negative ideologies, and actually do something about it. We need to find ways to integrate with people that differ from ourselves. We need to recognize the rural/urban divide and begin to understand how and why it affects perspective. We need to listen, really listen with empathy, to each other and start a new dialogue that addresses the fears plaguing the other half of our country. We need to analyze an unequal education system that has failed us. We need to break out of the bubble that allowed us to believe that a Trump presidency could not happen, and start dealing with a bigger reality.

We need to bind ourselves together, Democrats and Republicans and everyone else, as a united country. We actually can make America great again, even though it might be harder now than ever. This is what we owe ourselves, the world, our sons and daughters. Don’t give up.

Nominated for a Liebster Award!

Ever since I flew home, I’ve for some reason lost track of my motivation. Er, maybe I’ve just been lazy. I’m at grandma’s house, so you know, it’s excusable, right? 🙂 Even better the timing then that I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by travel blogger Heather from The Conversant Traveller!

liebster award

This award is a great way to recognize other bloggers, especially newbies, by giving them a chance to share a little about themselves! So, Heather, thanks for lighting a little fire under my butt to get back into my blogging routine!

Here are the Liebster Award rules:

  • Thank the blogger who has nominated you
  • Answer their questions
  • Nominate 10 other travel bloggers (ideally those with under 600 followers, likes, whatever you want to call them)
  • Ask them 10 questions

Without further ado… here are my answers to Heather’s questions!

1. What one item do you never travel without?

My camera! There is little more important to me than the ability to document all of those crazy memories and incredible moments that travel offers.  Good books are a close second. No, I have not embraced the Kindle craze, and yes, I’ll sacrifice extra outfits any day for a good book!

2. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

I’ve had a smorgasbord of insects, from termites to scorpions, but even those don’t hold a candle to the weirdest thing I’ve noshed. Nope, that distinction goes to an eccentric Thai dish called goong ten. Goong ten, which loosely translates as “dancing shrimp,” is basically live, baby shrimp flavored with lime juice and spices. They really do “dance” in your mouth, antennas tickling your nose as you crunch away!

3. If you had to choose a country to live in, which would it be, and why?

I’ve actually lived in five countries now, all of which have given me incredible experiences and helped me to truly grow as an individual. And really, it’s not until you spend a good chunk of time somewhere that you start to learn about a foreign culture in a deeper, more meaningful way. Because of that, I’d certainly be open to living just about anywhere for a time. But if forced to choose the one place I’d settle? I’m not going to lie, I’d choose my own country. Let’s face it, I’m an American through and through! Home never ceases to be magical to me, and I love all of the little things like s’mores and campfires and apple pie, not to mention getting to enjoy all of that with the proximity of lifelong friends and family. Just can’t top that!

me

4. What’s the most frightening/embarrassing experience you’ve ever had?

Well, let’s see if I can make this story a short one! Once upon a time I fell down a flight of stairs in a very creepy “hostel” in Budapest. After spending two days stuck in a bed and nursed by a 15 year old Hungarian, I pulled my black and blue self onto a train in attempt to get back to my current home in the Netherlands. The trip included an overnight train through Germany, in a car full of young German girls with not-so-great English. Since I was so bruised, I remained awake most of the journey—and thank goodness I did! About 2 a.m. or so, after it was dark and quiet, this creepy guy with one glass eye (I’m not making this up!) jerked open the door to our cabin! Without thinking, I leapt to my feet and slammed it shut as fast as I could, locking the deadbolt while I was at it. The guy came back every 30 minutes or so, jerking and pulling at the handle, until I had to get off the train… I don’t know if I’ve ever been so scared before or since!

5. Beach, Mountain or Jungle?

Mountain, without a doubt! Okay, I love beaches and jungles (who doesn’t?), but there’s something about mountains that overwhelms me in a really awesome way. They are just so majestic, and when I see a peak towering over me, it really puts my problems into perspective. We really are just so small in the scheme of things, and the largeness of mountains reminds me that all those worries and stresses of day-to-day life really aren’t so big after all.

shoes

6. Who or what inspires you to travel?

People! All of them! I have always been lucky to meet amazing people while traveling, and even luckier to have had quite a few reunions all over the world. Seeing stuff is certainly cool, but it really is the people that make travel amazing to me and keep me thirsty for more!

7. Favourite souvenir?

Well! I picked up this amazing souvenir in Cambodia… tall, dark, handsome… my wonderful boyfriend of course! As far as objects go, I rarely have room for anything besides gifts for other people, though I have a weird habit of buying mugs in different countries. I am pretty partial to my checked Khmer scarf, though. It’s been lost like a million times but keeps reappearing!

meand ste

8. If you could have dinner with anyone you like (dead or alive) who would it be, and why?

That’s a tough one! I’m a philosophy nerd, so I think I’d like to hold court at a Parisian cafe into the late hours of the evening with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Maybe I’d chance a tidbit about their entangled affairs, or debate the meaning of existence over endless carafes of wine as the Paris streets twinkle and come alive with the swirl of intoxication and intellect. Yup, that sounds about right.

9. Where’s the first place you ever travelled?

My first trip that I consider actual “travel” was to Pheonix, AZ. I had a week off of school and finished my exams early, and decided to take a trip. Coincidentally, I received a map of the US in the mail the next day as part of some sort of advertisement. I closed my eyes, pointed, and planned my trip! It was really my first time out in the world all by myself, and if I hadn’t done that, I don’t think I ever would have had the guts to head out in the world.

That being said, the first place I ever went out of the country was just a few months later, when I studied abroad in Leiden, Netherlands. I fell in love! That town and country will always have a very special place in my heart!

10. What one piece of advice would you give to fellow travellers?

Be open! Don’t over-plan, over-think, over-stress, just don’t over- anything! The majority of the best travel experiences I’ve had were completely unplanned and spur of the moment. Same goes for relationships. All too often I notice those travelers that stick to their selves and their itineraries, missing all of the other cool stuff that’s going on around them. Being prepared is cool, but please, just be open to things outside your comfort zone! If you don’t go for it now, when will you?

Now let’s get to the really exciting part–the nominees!

Adelina from Pack Me To… 

Bryna from Bryna’s Window

Caitlyn from Olympic Wanderings

Margo from Gutenblog Y’all

Ben from Paths Unwritten

Anna from Slightly Astray

Harriet from Harri Travels

Harrison from Foreign Wanders

Sarah from Sarah on the 808

Tam & Paul from Travelling Book Junkie

If you’re up for the challenge, just follow the rules above and answer these glorious questions I’ve prepared just for you!

1. What’s the most useless thing you’ve ever wished you hadn’t packed?

2. What’s your biggest passion besides traveling?

3. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? Why?

4. Do you have a favorite travel quote? Let’s hear it!

5. Biggest travel pet peeve… ?

6. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?

7. Number of hours you slept last night.

8. Why did you decide to start a blog?

9. What’s your favorite mode of transportation when on the move?

10. Where will your next trip take you?

Go forth my friends. And have fun! Happy Liebster Award Nominations!

Let’s Get Uncomfortable

It’s so easy to get comfortable.

That might sound like a funny statement coming from me. I mean, I’ve been upended and moved around so much the past few years, you’d think I’d never have a chance. And that’s partly true. Even after a year in Thailand, it’s still hard sometimes to reconcile the fact that I can’t have a conversation with the majority of the people I see day in and day out. At least in most European countries where I lived, there was a pretty good handle on English. But even so, there is a thriving expat community here and in all honesty, I can get by just fine with my limited Thai. In fact, the more Thai I speak, the more astounded (and usually amused) those around me tend to be.

Today I realized just how comfortable I’ve gotten. No matter what country I’ve been in, there has almost always been one constant factor trailing behind me. I have always been in school, and haven’t had to (or more to the point, had the opportunity to) work. Today was my first day of doing just that—or at least training. And boy, am I out of my comfort zone now.

First of all, the school is quite far away, and I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to go about getting there every day. Not only is traffic bad, it’s also highly unpredictable. That means that a bus can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes! The school is rather strict, also, so even a couple minutes late results in a warning. Today was a Sunday, and although I knew the traffic would be way less, I decided to leave an hour and a half early just in case. Of course, I got there in 20 minutes. Figures. So, I started off the day with a lot of uncomfortable sitting around in the sun getting sweaty.

teaching materials thailand

Second of all, the head of the school began by introducing the new teachers. I had originally signed on to teach kindergarten for the summer term, and then move to high school for English grammar during the regular school year beginning in August. To my surprise, he introduced me as teaching Reading to grades 3, 4, and 5! What?

I had no idea what was going on, where to go, etc. There was no official ‘meeting’ for the teachers in my grade levels, as there are only 3 fairly small classes and I am the only new teacher. Suddenly, I was being asked about curriculum reports, curriculum guides, curriculum maps, etc. (I’m still confused about what’s what…) THEN I went to the book room, and the guy running it looked at me and said… so you’re not teaching it all year? No… Well, you know you’ve got 3 boxes of books… What?!

I’ve already composed a letter to my students’ parents, am currently putting together vocab lists for the entire summer, thinking of how to draw up classroom rules, and oh, did I mention I have no decorations for my room? (Trying to figure out how I can connive Steven into getting creative on that one 🙂 !) Plus, I’ve got to draw up my plans for the entire 6 weeks for 3 different grade levels by TOMORROW.

So, to get back to my point. I am out of my comfort zone. WAY out. This is going to be difficult for a while, and in August I’ll get to start all over again. But once again, I’m being pushed to learn something new, to learn the joy of being uncomfortable.

I’m terrified.

But ohhhhhh am I excited!!!!

We Met on a Plane: Missing You (Whoever You Are)

Have you seen this website, We Met on a Plane, yet?

It’s a website that helps you locate the one that got away… er, flew away.  The site allows you to post up your flight details and date and a little message, hoping that guy with the piercing blue eyes or that girl with the most adorable laugh will somehow stumble upon it.  While I’m not sure this website has ever actually led to a successful reunion, it’s really fun to read some of the things that people have written.  My favorite was from a boy (now a man) who remembered a woman next to him who stroked his hair as he slept.  Or the girl who sat next to a gorgeous man and didn’t even respond when he spoke to her because she was too shy.  What strikes me the most, I think, is how small the nuances are that leave a person always remembering the elusive other, like a shadow they can’t shake off.  But then I got to thinking about it–have I ever had one of these chance romantic sparks??

Yes and no.

We Met on a Plane

Once, as I was boarding a plane, I saw that the seats next to the exit door were empty, except for a tallish, sandy-haired Aussie in the aisle seat.  I scooted myself over to the window, and cringed as each very smelly or very obnoxious passenger walked by, banking on that empty seat.  It was my birthday, and I was on a plane, and I was very tired, and I had had an awful day prior to the flight.  The boy made a joke, and we struck a conversation, just biding the time… but somehow, no one took that seat!  Long story short, we made a table on the empty seat between us, drank cider, laughed, and talked the  entire way to London.  It’s not one of those romantic stories, but just a chance encounter that made my day.  We still say hi to each other once in a blue moon.

And then another time, I was sitting in the train station at the Lyon airport, biding my time as I had an hour left before departure.  There was nothing to do, it was cold, and I had already been travelling 20 hours or so.  Suddenly a young man walked in and sat immediately opposite me.  I looked up, secretly hoping he would come talk to me, but then just looked down and turned up my iPod.  Next thing you know, he’s in front of me, saying, “You’re American aren’t you?”  and before I can make any kind of remark, I realize that I recognized him as American before I even heard him speak (maybe it was the flip-flops he was wearing in winter?).  It ended up being one of the fastest hours ever–we talked about all sorts of crazy things, laughing and losing track of time. I blame it on the last as to why I hurried off to the whistle of my train without so much as exchanging facebook information with him.  And yeah, I’ll probably never see him again.  And sure, it’s sad to think about.

Surely, there have been some other instances like this during my travels.  It’s those moments that make me feel somehow alive, closer to the world.  But unlike the people on the website, I never really walked away with that tingle of attraction, that feeling that something just took place so important that I have to spend hours on the internet just trying to figure out how to get the person, the feeling, back.

Maybe I’ve just lost my touch with romance… Or maybe the next flight will be the one that keeps me up at night, dreaming of what could have been with 17B.

Birthday Wishes for Brother

I spent nearly the whole day yesterday baking, which was a pleasure, of course.  By the afternoon, I had successfully licked about three bowls clean, and had brand new chocolate ganache stripes on my clean, white shirt.  The cake is called “Chocolate Overdose Cake” and trust me, it lives up to the name!  The bottom layer is a dark chocolate brownie, topped by fluffy chocolate mousse, then a layer of moist chocolate cake, and all of that covered with a rich chocolate ganache.  Mmmmm….

burfday

The occasion?  My little brudder is now 21.  A little sentimentality is in order for two reasons:  because this event really makes me feel OLD and because, well, I love my little brother.

I remember when he was just an itty-bitty little thing, with the biggest blue eyes in the world, and the blondest of blonde little baby wisps of hair on his noggin’…  I swore I loved him so much that I would never ever be mean to him (that was a lie).  I used to love to sit and read to him while he would just stare away, sucking at his little pacifier.

Little Jarry

Then, later, he hit the terrible threes, or four, or whatever, and I was always working on these giant Disney poster-puzzles and right about the time I was nearly finished, he would waltz right in and knock the whole thing in the floor and I would get SO MAD!!  Around this same time, dad got him really into golf.   I mean, as much as you can get a child that age into GOLF.  But every night he would sleep with his hands tightly wrapped around two golf balls.  Sure beats a teddy bear.  Dad also had the brilliant idea to give him a golf club, but no little plastic imposters for my brother!!  He got a real, metal five-iron (or something, I don’t play golf) and cut it down to size for his little frame.  It was real cute and all until one day he up and whacked me in the back of the head with it!!

I’m positive he probably doesn’t remember this, but around the same time, I used to sneak in his bedroom at night when he was sleeping and rub his back, and think how peaceful he looked, and sometimes crawl up in the top bunk of his bed just to be near him.  I sure loved him.

Unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of his life–the growing up, the heartbreak from girls, awkward moments of high school–and then one day I saw him and here he was, a man.  As much as he will always be the little guy running around in his Power Rangers’ underwear to me, I can’t help but marvel at what a man he has become.  Now, finishing college, and engaged to the sweetest and cutest girl EVER, I’m just proud of him.  He has grown up right.  And I still love that little snot.

cuppycakes

Happy Birthday, little brudder.

Saying Goodbye

It’s amazing how quickly you can make friends and grow so close together.  That’s what I learned in Leiden, and also what made it so hard to leave.  I met the most interesting, kind, fun, and intelligent people while I was there.  And yes, I was that weird chick crying at the customs desk.  Okay, fine, I was still all teary-eyed when I landed in Newark.  But honestly, the hardest part was just being back home.

Saying Goodbye

It was absolutely crazy before I left.  I was so busy with thesis #1 and #2, commencement, finals, and whatever else I was doing, that I hardly even got to say goodbye to anyone.  I also had to move out THE DAY BEFORE leaving for Leiden, meaning I never got to say a proper goodbye to the apartment that was MINE for the last four years, or (and what I have really paid for!) pack my things away with any sort of organization.  All I could come back to was a room without my smell or my touch and a bunch of dusty boxes.  It has been a nightmare, really, because I have literally unpacked everything just to pack it up again.  But through this whole process, I have learned a lot more about saying goodbye than I ever thought, while at the same time learning a bit more about myself.  Read:  I am a packrat.

I am so proud of myself.  I have sold or trashed (mostly trashed) over ¾ of the things that I thought I could not live without.  It’s so completely liberating, now, but it has been a weird rollercoaster of emotions going through everything.  Here are a few of the things I found, and managed to part with:

  • Every note ever written to me since 3rd grade
  • The teddy bear with the chewed-off nose
  • Every greeting card I’ve ever received since I was old enough to think to keep them
  • An entire box full of “poetry” that I wrote (documenting my entire love life, naturally)
  • T-shirts from Junior High Student Council (a necessity)
  • Actually, on that note, an inordinate amount of 90’s clothing, generally
  • All the little gifts that my Big Sis from Poms made for me (including a half-melted candle)
  • Every flower petal from every flower ever given to me by a boy
  • Buckeyes that my great-grandfather used to carry in his pocket, rubbed completely smooth
  • All the letters that I wrote to the people I loved, trying to “fix” things, but never had the guts to give
  • Every Seventeen magazine (WHY????)
  • The corsage from my first prom
  • Memories of my first great love, and the heartbreak that came with it
  • The pain of losing my best friend (who I still miss)
  • The awkwardness of feeling out of place
  • So, so many tears
  • And so many smiles.

It wasn’t until today, as I began to pack the remnants back in boxes for another year, that I realized by keeping all of those things, I was also holding onto the emotional baggage that came with them.  I feel like a piece of me is now gone.  And although there is a twinge of sadness, I mostly just feel PURIFIED.

 

Americans Posing as Canadians: What’s That All “Aboot”?

When travelling Europe, it’s impossible not to notice the whole Americans posing as Canadians trend.  I don’t care what country you are in, you are undoubtedly within arm’s length of at least one backpacker with the red and white emblem sewn on the front.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, and I actually thought it was a pretty cool idea.  There comes a point, after being alone for awhile, when it becomes sort of exciting to meet someone from your corner of the woods.  Having a can’t-miss marker as to who exactly is your partner in crime seemed, well, to make sense.

That was before I realized just how big of an issue this little backpacker’s practice has become.

First of all, as much as I try to steer clear of stereotypes, I definitely learned that I have stereotypes.  And one of those just happens to be that all Canadians say aboot, dontcha know, eh?, that sort of thing, making the difference between an American and Canadian completely obvious.  I was wrong.

Canadian Backpackers

Most Canadians sound just like us.  I heard more “Canadian” talk in Fargo than I ever heard from a real Canadian.  We look the same, we talk the same, we dress the same… who can really tell us apart?  No one.  And herein lies the problem.  Know what the one major difference is between US and Canada?  Europeans love the Canadians.  They don’t love the Americans.  In fact, some Europeans downright loathe us.  Try Paris for size, if you don’t believe me.

During my travels, I met a bunch of really sweet Canadians.  And I also met a bunch of really sweet Americans.  Posing as Canadians.  So this whole thing has become just a really weird backpacking sensation.  Canadians are so worried about being mistaken for Americans that they are taking the time to sew in these flag patches (do you know how thick a good backpacker’s backpack is?  those things must take forever!), and Americans are so worried about being recognized as Americans, that they sew on the good ol’ maple pride as well.

I may disagree once in awhile with my country.  I’ll admit that.  But I don’t ever confuse political issues with the land that is home.  I still love hot dogs and apple pie and s’mores and trekking in the woods and all of the real stuff that makes America important to me.  That also includes democratic ideals like liberty and freedom of speech and the ability to change.  In other words, I can’t trade all that in just so someone will treat me a little better when I’m checking in that hostel for a whopping one or two nights.

On the other hand, it does get tough.  There are a lot of silly Americans driving in the stereotypes that other countries hold about us.  I know, because I met a lot of them.  And sometimes I got yelled at for things only Georgie Bush can really be held responsible for.  It’s hard to have to take the responsibility for those kinds of things when you didn’t even VOTE for them.

So let’s get down to it.  What do I think about this whole Canadian flag thing?  I think that when you’re backpacking, part of what makes it so great is that you get to have this experience of transcending all of those stereotypes you grew up with.  You have to cross giant mental borders just as you cross physical ones.  That being said, I know that it is my duty to represent my country for what someone else might not see, to share the voices of all the others that often get lost in the hullaballoo of politics and media.  I can disagree with my country, and sometimes vehemently.  But denying it only perpetuates the same stereotypes we want to avoid.

It really boils down to this:  for all the flag-waving we do on our own soil, I didn’t see one backpacker with an American flag on his/her bag.  Maybe we should learn from the fact that we have a hard time remaining so proud when we’re not just looking at ourselves.  But instead of sticking our heads in the sand (ahem! yes, you, Americans posing as Canadians), let’s do something about it.