Gimme shelter

I really want a new umbrella. This one...

I think it would be perfect. I don't even care if its raining. I just want it in my closet at the ready.  It's shelter I'm after some days. Occasionally, living here can feel a little rough. And I love it here. But the US isn't universally loved.

Intellectually, I knew that. I just didn't expect it to feel so personal. Last week I was called emotionally needy, immature, loud, told I didn't have a backbone, couldn't get along well with my neighbors, and wasn't especially intelligent.

Gotta tell you, it kind of stung. It didn't matter that it wasn't addressed to me specifically, sure felt like it. Doesn't even matter if it's right or wrong.

I love my home and my American culture. I guess we are loud and opinionated but we are also sensitive and spirited.

Why else would hurricanes and blizzards make me homesick? I'm not dying to sit around in a freezing house watching all my refrigerated items spoil. I missed the spirit that brings a group together. The way time sort of stops and you wonder if your neighbors need help.

I've driven cross country. What a crazy trip. Four college girls driving from Maine to San Diego to aid and abet an elopement. I got to see where I was born; Taos, New Mexico, saw the Grand Canyon. Ate in a diner in Texas. I loved that trip then and I love it more as time goes by.

I have a sister in Oregon, cousins in Hawaii, family in Nebraska, friends on Guam. Favorite spots to vacation in Maine and North Carolina. Lived in the city. Lived in the country.

Now I live in another country. This isn't the first time I've lived in another country. I lived in England. Loved that too. It's not better or worse. It's different. A country with its own culture and customs unlike any other. The people may speak another language but they still help each other, fight with each other, get married, push their babies in strollers, help their elderly parents cross the street and talk on their cell phones while driving. They argue about foreign and domestic affairs. And slowly little pieces of other cultures slip in.

There's a battle in one canton about the retail use of the English word "sale". It's a French speaking canton and the argument is the word "soldes" should be used as French is their official language. Soldes in French though, apparently translates to "dirty". Big fight about that.

My point is that, none of this seems all that different from where I come from. People are people. The trouble starts with "causeless hatred" ( an interesting read).

This is my hope for my kids and what they will leave Switzerland with...

I hope when Lauren studies world history in high school and she's studying Russia, she remembers her friend Alex from Moscow. A little girl who studies, is beautiful, smart and loves American candy. And Declan, a boy from England, who is half Turkish, who sang the solo at the Christmas concert. I hope Caroline remembers how funny and brave her friends from England, Holland, and Switzerland were. How they held hands sledding down mountains and slid down  ice covered slides. I hope she remembers her friend Iman, another beautiful little girl, who is both Pakistani and Scottish, and who is the voice of reason in an otherwise group of fool hardy third graders.  I hope Sam will think of math and associate it with his friend Brian and his dad, the math teacher, who taught Sam to say "hakuna matata" like only a native Kenyan speaker can and taught him to enjoy math again.

Selfishly, I hope those kids from South Africa, Holland, Canada, Switzerland, Russia, Scotland, Kenya, and Pakistan, if the opportunity were to arise would say, "Hey, I've met the US. And you're wrong."


  1. I don't think that the progressively negative reputation of the U S in recent decades is going to get much better in the eyes of the rest of the world anytime soon. BUT, I DO believe that you, Doug, Sam, Lauren, and Caroline will leave a more positive view of the US to those you encounter along the way. ;-). Just wondering by WHOM to WHOM was that comment made? ...not that it really matters.

  2. I remeber when max and I were backpacking and riding our bikes through Europe camping and sleeping on trains and even afew hostels when we felt rich.. for three months.. Max was 12 years old and I was (well never mind)a young mother.. what we heard again and again When we told people we were Americans .. they said you are not like any of the Americans I have ever met..they were surprised that we rode bikes and trains ( the would explain that most of the americans they had met just do whril-wind tour and are always in such a hurry.. they would say in surprise you are actually visiting our county not just driving by bueatiful places.. you actual try to say hello to us in our language and than apologies for swittching to english...I was happy to explain to them that you have just not yet to met the entire middle class of America.. as they do ride bikes, play wiht children and are so nice.. The other big surprise was how easy it was to travel with my son .. most people were so nice due to this .. the respect for me as a mother was completely different than I had expirenced at home..we did get homesick but one trip to American Embassy and we felt better. We both learned o much from that trip and both are better Americans for the trip.


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