The thing is, the reason that I’ve always been so attracted to European culture is because it was just that – a culture. Growing up in America, I felt that we lacked a fundamental sense of being, a sense of tradition and it was that I craved all along. I had a friend who was Greek and she used to take us to Washington D.C. and show us the festivals with Greek dancing and traditional costumes, the parties where plates were smashed and the baklava that was so unique tasting. My father is from Cuba but even though that makes me half Cuban, I felt miles away from the Cuban heritage. My cousins in Miami would tell me about the politics, cook me arroz con pollo and shoot me up with a shot of Cuban coffee – but I never truly related. I still felt foreign and like a spectator. Living in France, I observed the French women’s je ne sais quoi, learned the language and lost 30 pounds to become one of them. I drank their wine, ate crepes, escargots, steak tartare – the lot. France was the closest I felt to being one of them.
And now that this year and a half is coming to a close in England, I realize what America had all along. It took the British to teach it to me, but I am truly grateful that they did. America has its own culture and the world around us acknowledges it as such. Perhaps the rest of the world doesn’t approve or abhors us for what we do, how we are and spreading our ideas – but isn’t that part of having a unique culture? Surely the English hate the French simply because their culture is different, just like the Greeks don’t particularly get on with the Turkish or the Palestinians could do without the Israelis.
It may seem obvious to everyone else, but perhaps it took a seemingly “similar” culture to show me that the United States of America is unique, has its own attributes and is a country that I should be proud of belonging to. I swear I never thought I would be writing those words – I was the eternal expat, the born foreigner – I never felt like I fit anywhere (until I moved to France), but now I think I might be able to cope and even love my country. We’re not all McDonald’s, Walmart and Subway. There is more to us than that. Baseball, dreams, hope, ambition, melting pot, extremes, Hollywood, American football, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Rosa Parks, Norman Rockwell, Jack Kerouac, Louis Armstrong – the list starts and continues forever.
So, without getting any more sentimental, I just want to say that in nearly 48 hours, I will be landing.
Bags are packed – all six of them – and Jock’s parents are sending us off in an English way. BBQ today, a bit of roast dinner tomorrow, supper on the pub’s waterfront with a drink of cider yesterday. The perfect way to leave. And to think, it’s even sunny!
What is it about your culture that you’re most proud of?
(P.S. Did I ever mention that I finally finished my book? Like the one I’ve been working on since I moved here? Like the one that has been on this journey with me? Friday night I typed the last words, and I may have said something similar to this before, but this time I mean it. It’s time to sell the darn thing! I may be posting e-books for sale on my blog in a while for my readers to get first glances. Will let you know! Thank you all for following me on my escapades. I am truly grateful.)