Friday, August 17, 2012

Various Thoughts on my First Ten Days Home

A couple days after I got back to America, my sister and I went shopping.  (Three years in China is not kind to any wardrobe.)  At the mall, we played a game: "What's right with America // What's wrong with America."

The rules are simple.  Point something out.  Then say if it's what's right with America or what's wrong.  Here are a few examples:

Clearance racks:  That's what's right with America
Gigantic bucket-sized soft drinks:  That's what's wrong with America
Comfy benches to sit on:  That's what's right with America
Can't bargain:  That's what's wrong with America
Cinnabon:  That's what's right with America
The Chick-fil-a wars:  That's what's wrong with America

Normally when I get back in the summertime I'm really struck by all the differences between the U.S. and China, but this time, which is technically my fifth return from China, I've gotten used to the differences and notice them less.  I still gasp at every beautiful sunset, though.  (Clean air - that's what's right with America.)

A couple days ago I made my first real visit to the Iowa State Fair.  I've gone other times, but never really walked through and stayed awhile.  As I walked around with my friends, I started getting confused.

Deep-fried cheese:  That's what's wrong with America.  No wait - that's what's right with America!  Wrong!  Right?  Who knows!
(Deep-fried butter and deep-fried candy bars were an easier call.  I filed them under "wrong."  Funnel cakes and the pork tent were solidly under "right.")

As we walked deeper into the fairgrounds, we came upon crowds of people lined up along a police barrier around an intersection.  The overhead chairlift had been stopped, and we could see an ambulance sitting there.  We immediately thought there had been an accident (someone falling from the lift, maybe?) and turned back.  We couldn't get through anyway.

However, a little bit of questioning at the walking taco tent revealed that the crowds were waiting for Barack Obama.  Yes, the President of the U.S. was making an unscheduled stop at the fair!

I've never seen a U.S. President in person and was really excited to have the chance, and totally by coincidence.  We joined the crowds waiting patiently around the intersection.  After about a half-hour, the Presidential motorcade pulled up and two large, black tour buses parked in the intersection.

Another hour went by.  Nothing happened.  I bought an over-priced Sprite and returned to my spot behind three too-tall people blocking the view of nothing happening. 

At one point, a lady near me tried to pass a "Mitt Romney for President" sign to be held in the front.  The lady she tried to hand it up to was disgusted and handed it back, saying:

"Show some respect.  It's the President of the United States!"
"He doesn't deserve any respect.  He's crap."
"It's the office you show respect for."
"Well he doesn't respect the office!"

The first lady walked off to find a new place to display her sign.

I thought about this exchange for awhile.  Is this what's wrong with America or what's right?  I think we can all agree that the downright nastiness of political discussion in America is wrong.  (Both of those ladies sounded a little nasty.)  Then again, I just came from a country where you can't and don't say things like that about your leaders.  I think nasty free speech is more valuable by far than a false harmony.  I'm calling this one a draw in my wrong/right game, with a very slight advantage given to "right."

Here comes the anti-climax:  After we stood waiting for an hour and a half, hoping that Obama would finally emerge from his bus and say a few words, the buses simply drove away.  The local security guys unfastened the barrier ropes and the crowds streamed off in all directions.  We asked the security guys what happened, and one just shrugged his shoulders and said, "We don't know."

"Thanks for your work anyway," my friend told him.
He clapped her on the shoulder and said, "That's a long time to wait for a Democrat."

We considered that quote a fair reward for our long and fruitless wait.

It turns out that Obama had walked along the concourse for awhile, stopped for some pork and a beer, looked at the butter cow, and then gotten back in his bus.  I'm still not really sure why he didn't get out at the intersection where everyone expected him to.

A lot of people were muttering under their breath when it was clear he wasn't going to address the crowd.  "What an ass!" I heard at least one person say.  Others were annoyed that they couldn't get through: "What's everyone waiting for?"  "Obama."  "Isn't there anything better to see?"

I'm no Obama apologist, but I was a little surprised that some people couldn't set aside their partisanship and muster up some interest in hearing the leader of the free world speak in person.  (That's what's wrong with America?)

So now you know two things I've done in my ten days home.  In addition to clothes-shopping and State-Fairing, I've also gone up to visit relatives in Northeast Iowa and taken a couple trips to Des Moines.  I've been looking for jobs and will hopefully have something to report on that front soon. 

Interestingly, the most common China question I've gotten since returning to America is this one: "What American foods did you miss while in China?"  I may not be the best person to ask this question; I'm less of a food-misser than most Americans I know in China and never have a good answer to give.

In other news, I've complied my annual "Favorite Chinglish" album on Facebook.  You can view it even if you aren't a member of Facebook.  Click HERE for Amazing Chinglish!

That's all for now.  I may update this blog once more before slinking off into oblivion.

1 comment:

  1. :-) soooo interesting. would love to hear more from you in person sometime.