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Saturday, November 13, 2004

Good to be home

I got in from North Carolina around 9.30 pm last night. It is so good to be back home.

It wasn't a bad trip. Don't get me wrong. But it's not home. No matter where you live, home is always good to come back to.

There were about 25-30 men there from all over the US, mostly places in the south (Texas, West Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). It always amazes me during these trips the accents that I encounter. American accents vary wildly from region to region. In Canada we only have probably three main accents: Down East, Quebec and the rest of Canada. It's interesting from a historical perspective to try and decipher why the American accents are they way they are. Usually one deciding factor in language variation is isolation: the more isolated an area is for a length of time, the more that language or dialect will evolve in its own path. But the trade between states and the size of the population would imply less isolation than would be assumed due to the degree of dialect variance. It would be interesting to study that.

While we were there, our hosts took us to an authentic German restaurant where we had wonderful food. One of the men who work for our hosts said we would love the next night's dinner: Japanese (I don't like fish much). He said they cook it right at the table and that food will be flying everywhere and you'd have to catch it in your mouth. Ya, sure, says I. I'm not THAT blonde that I'd fall for such a lie, I told him.

Well - we get to the Japanese restaurant Thursday night and sure enough, food is flying everywhere, he's flipping cubes of zucchini into his pocket, into the little divot on top of his chef's hat, and then says to me to open wide. NO I say, laughing. He says - Come on we having fun. So I do it and he misses. He said AGAIN. So we do it again and sure enough he gets it in my mouth. It was hilarious. He also was able to bounce an egg, in the shell, against his spatula like a bolo ball against a paddle, and then flip the egg up, turn the spatula on its side and let the egg land on the sharp edge of the spatula, cracking it for the fried rice. It was quite the show.

There was a gentleman there at the training session originally from Wyoming but now working in Philadelphia. My boss and I sat next to him on the shuttle to the hotel and he and I found out we were both history majors in university, me going to York in Toronto and he attending West Point. So we chatted further and it turns out he was stationed in Iraq for a year, guarding a non-working oil refinery. And then he started letting loose regarding the prison scandal and the political instability in the area. He's quite discouraged about the situation and believes that there is nothing the US can do in this area now, that rightly or wrongly they've stirred things up and because of the prison scandal in particular, America's reputation is tarnished for at least a generation there, and likely elsewhere in the world. He served in the army for 12 years and was honourably discharged 5 months ago. But the tension in his face and body talking about the situation was clearly evident.

Behind me in the bus, my other colleague was talking to a gentleman about the election. He said "So, do y'all in Canada laugh at us and our situation here?" My colleague very wisely said "what do you mean". He said "ya know, with the election, and the war and stuff". My colleague said that he personally was happy with the results of the election because that would mean George W. would continue to spend money which is good for the Canadian economy, and the dollar would probably continue to be lower, which helps Canadians somewhat. The other gentleman said "ya, but what about the war?" My colleague said "You know, we really would have been there to the best of our ability, if the UN had sanctioned it." (We're big on the global partnership that is represented in the UN). The guy (from Texas, by the way) said "ya ya I know", shrugging his shoulders.

Then, in the airport, a woman was waiting for the flight to Dulles Airport which was at the next gate to ours back to Toronto. She heard us talk and said "oh, so, you guys are from Toronto". Yep. She wanted to know what we thought of the election. My smart ass colleage said "You guys had an election?" She said that she is always curious what other countries think of the US but that maybe because Canada was so close we think pretty much the same as the US. I said "The best way I can describe this recent election is, pretend we are like your best friend in university and you're going out with a couple of different guys, and then you choose one over the other. Because we are your friend, we don't tell you who to date, but we have our own opinions that we keep to ourselves because we still like our friendship". She laughed at that.

The point to all this is: I've travelled in the US about once a year for the last ten years. I have never had so many Americans be uncomfortable with the state of affairs. I had other conversations with people there - Buffalo, Rochester NY, Minnesota, Seattle, Los Angeles. No matter how they voted, there was some discomfort evident about either how the election went or how they perceive the direction of the country to be heading. In past, it's always seemed a homogenous solidarity of the US against the world. Any people with differing opinions certainly did state them, but it was good natured and positive that overall the intentions of those in power were good. Now it seems much more fractured.

It was kind of sad to see. Maybe it was just too close to the election and feelings need to calm down a bit (the election really was so close).

Time will tell if the pessimism I sensed was correct or just reactionary.

blond


Blogger Franikins said...
Welcome back! Thanks for such an enlightening post. I too feel uncomfortable with the situation in Iraq and US involvement. It isn't getting any better and more soldiers are dying. What's the best strategy? I don't know but it doesn't look as if resolution is anywhere near around the corner.

The Japanese restaurant sounded like a blast. And I like your analogy about Canada and the US being friends at university. It was a great answer.

Where did that stereotype about blondes being dumb come from anyway? It's certainly not true here. ;)  

Blogger moodymicello said...
Welcome back. You were truly missed!! I think a number of people are feeling uncomfortable; and maybe something has to do with having been less than active in our role in government such that we ended up with the vote of last time and the choice of candidates of this time. for the privilege we have in this country, it is a shame the lack of effort we put into our involvement in selecting our candidates and then voting for them. michele  

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