Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Earning our Ex-Pat Stripes

With the election less than three weeks away, the intensity is mounting. I don't know if any of you knew this, but I happen to be dating a political pundit, so I get informed of the latest poll stats multiple times a day. Although I am always a little leary of polls, the numbers are fascinating in the recent weeks, with the financial jumbles seeming to really engage voters. It is both sad and hopeful that polling stations do not currently have the means to handle all of the predicted voters; sad because so disappointingly few Americans voted before, and hopeful because of the sweeping change that seems to be blowing through the US.

Our own miniature Election Day actually happenned last Thursday, as absentee ballots had to be signed, sealed, and delivered by last Friday. We trekked out to the embassy in the morning, took a number, and waited our turn to vote. It was one line we were happy to wait in, as it meant more people voting! It is a strange feeling to already have our ballots in, and yet still be waiting for Election Day. Although, as it turns out, some of us are not in any hurry to have Election Day come and go...Nick admitted just the other day that he is a bit worried about what he will do with his time after the Election happens. :-)

It is interesting to see how non-Americans are tracking this election. On Wednesday night Nick and I watched the debate at our friends' Nick and Brenna's apartment, and they have a French roommate who watched it with us as well. At the end of the debate, I asked her about her thoughts on President Sarkozy, and she said that although she always votes, she does not pay close attention to domestic politics. She said she gives much more thought to American politics, as she feels they have a bigger impact on her country, and the world. Likewise, in almost every lesson I teach, the students undoubtedly ask me,¨Who are you voting for??¨ It is amazing to see how the United States affects the whole world.

Living in another country makes you realize that every country has its complications. Nick and I realize that we chose quite freely to move here, and because of that, we realize that the positive and negatives we encounter have been a choice. Thus, we certainly acknowledge the negatives and try to avoid them where we can, but they will always be there, and so to help us feel comfortable and help make this home, we have to focus on the positive aspects so much. I feel this effort to recognize the positive has carried over and caused us to really focus on the positives of our own country, as well.

In the past, I have always been far too quick to judge the US, far too quick to look at the negatives. I am realizing more and more how ignorant and naive that was. Of course, like any country, we have our faults and our mistakes--our complications. But we also have some great things and have done great things as a nation, for our own country and for the world. I feel the amount of people who want to learn English here is an example of how the US can be an image of opportunity, as literally hoards of people want to learn the language for business, or travel, or education. It is also unbelievable to me how Argentines have been following the Presidential campaign, as the talk of change and hope brought forth in this campaign spreads to people here in the hopes that America will bring positive change to the world.

Yesterday I was teaching a business-English lesson to a student, and we were discussing the global financial crisis. He was explaining how in Argentina, they do not feel this is such a bad thing, because they have allreay gone through it many times before. Likewise, Nick had a student last week who said, ¨I have seen this movie before...In 2001.¨ Semi-haunting words, as the Argentines refer to 2001 as ¨the crisis,¨ but it also shows how quickly a people and an economy can bounce back. Moreover, the students always top off their explanations with their faith in the US, that it is a stable country that will come back, especially after the election.

One student asked me, ¨Why did you come to Argentina?¨ Well, it was more like, ¨Why did you come to Argentina?¨ I explained how Nick and I wanted to challenge ourselves, and we wanted to learn Spanish, to which the student said, ¨Well, then why not somewhere else, somewhere like Uruguay, somewhere stable?¨ I was thrown off, and tried to laugh it off, saying that we understand that every country has its complications, but he was insistent. Many Argentines I have encountered have a fierce pride associated with being Argentine, coupled strangely with a self-deprecation in being Argentine. They have seen a junta, and their economy plummet, constant farmer strikes where meat and dairy products are withheld from grocery stores, the government and the agriculturalists in constant stand-off's, and I feel Argentines have learned to shake their heads and say as one of my students so perfectly quoted, ¨At the end of the day, this is Argentina, and we are not surprised.¨

At the same time that Argentines have this self-deprecation, they also show their excitement over their country, their eyes lighting up when they talk of the natural beauty of Patagonia, or how the falls of Igauzu put Niagra to shame, or how the Malbec from Mendoza puts French wine to shame. It is their land, their history, and they love it passionately. But it seems that when it comes to politics, they place great faith in American politics, which is a wake-up call to me to be proud of my country. I suppose you could say I am an ex-patriot learning to be patriotic. :-)

1 comment:

Meech said...

neoliberalism and the so called free market economy heralded by the US and wholeheartedly adopted by Menem led to the December 2001 economic meltdown in Argentina - not something to be proud of - the only good thing about this latest global economic meltdown caused by the subprime mortgage collpase in the US is that it is now signals the end of US capitalism as we know it - i was an expat living in BA during the economic crisis in 2001 and if you go to some states in teh US now they are going through the same - USA republican policy has a lot to answer for...