Tuesday, April 10, 2007


It's nice to finally be home. I'm a bit jet lagged. We went to bed at 10p which meant we were up for 24 hrs basically and I don't count the naps on the plane. I woke up at 4am PST and I think it's because of the tea I drank on the plane to stay up, so great, now I'm jet lagged and caffeine pumped. No matter. I have the rest of the week off.

So instead of going back to sleep, I decided to get up, unpack a bit, go online looking for the movie "Wu Ji" which I only saw partially but is the kind of mythic Chinese love story that we love. Got caught up on alot of movies actually both on the plane and at our hotel: Borat, Blood Diamond, a movie about Beatrix Potter with Rene Zellweger, The Pursuit of Happyness, Little Miss Sunshine.

We stopped by our parents place for dinner and to pick up our car. They just came back from the Philippines so we got more stuff from them: new tailored pants for the hubby, patis, tupin, Philippine movies, etc.

I think in terms of dealing with levels of foreignness, Americans are still pretty bad. And I mean like when Americans go to areas that are unfamiliar to them. The more unfamiliar, the more rude and arrogant we become. And alot of that is simply that America is built on convenience and access. One of those interpretative aspects of "the pursuit of happiness". Americans are just not used to not being able to get something which makes us indignified when we can't. But for Europeans and I think much of the world, when it happens to them, it's oh well. We're sticklers for time and lines and fairness. Always the "fairness" especially when it deals with convenience. But each culture we found really are not Miss Manners and have their own aspects of rudeness built into their cultures. In any case, it's not that we found one particular place any ruder or more polite than the US, it's just that they were rude or polite about different things.

The British have lines, but they may not mean anything, but they have lines! Things must always be proper, there's a proper way of doing things, but they may or may not tell you what that is depending on what class they think you are. There are so many things that they just don't do or won't tell you about. They are nice enough to let you off the train, but like most places the stress of commute hours makes just about everyone as rude and disinterested as everyone else. They of course think the French are really rude. And a few even thought that they would "spit on us" when they found out we were American. But that wasn't the case.

We ran into one aloof and nonchalant French person and that was at the Pompidou's info desk, the modern museum, and frankly, I don't know any museum that doesn't have at least one of those running their info desk! While most of the people we met catered to tourists, we did meet a few shop owners, a painter on the street, and a guy walking who stopped to help us figure out how the public restroom works (they have the self-cleaning ones that you see in SF, which they stole from Paris). They were just delightful people, very pleasant, very helpful, quite kind. Now the French I think often seem rude sometimes because they don't really have concepts of "lines". Unless there are physical contraints that create a line, for the most part they just mob the front and grab the attention of one of the service people.

Then there is Spain with their notoriously bad wait service. Food is good, drinks are filled, but things are just thrown to the table. Part of the perception too of Spainish being rude to Americans is that many are shy about speaking English, though many would love to learn it. They are an immensely proud people. And the lingering aspects of the Franco dictatorship still permeate the air. But they are frank about their comments and comedy. Their comedy is more like South Park on a regular basis that contains very crass jokes.

But in any case it's been an amazing 15 days seeing how cultures move and evolve, the contrasts, the similarities in behavior and language. How many things "American" are a reflection of our European past both on the east and west coasts. And indeed, every country thinks they are the greatest in the world (especially when it comes to soccer! People boycotted anything Italian for nearly a year after world cup) It's these contrasts and similarities that make for some hilarious stories though. These moments of getting lost in translation, this in between space between worlds where things make sense but don't, the pivot points between cultures, fascinating, fascinating stuff that give us a better sense of who we are.

A friend is about to embark on a journey through the world as well. I know she's looking for particularly things. But there's a thing about travelling, as we extend more outward, there is an even greater journey within. The endpoint is sometimes not there, it's here.

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