Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm the weirdest kind of ex-pat.

Technically speaking, as a military dependent, I doubt I can even be classed as ex-pat. But pretend with me so I can feel a little more cosmopolitan as I sit here typing in my (new!) Elmo-themed pajama shorts.

I've been living in Germany for 5 years. And every time I come back to the states I feel a little overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the 15 different brands of Italian-style bread crumbs at the grocery store. Overwhelmed by the variety of billboards that can offer me all-night staying power or a reminder that God is listening within the same 5 mile stretch of highway. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of McDonald's restaurants I will pass during any one car trip. Overwhelmed by the diversity, really. There is just so much going on, so much of the time. This truly is the land of plenty in many respects.

I feel like a rube venturing to the big city for the first time, even though this is the place I once called home. I feel out of my element. I wonder how much life overseas has changed who I am and what values are most important to me. I haven't quite figured it out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Powell endorses Obama.

I think this is huge. I love Colin Powell. I've often wished that he would run for President.

Of course, my cousin cynically stated, as we watched the press conference after the announcement, that he was amazed that none of the reporters asked Powell whether his endorsement had anything to do with Obama being African American.

And I realized that I was a little surprised, too. That kind of bullshit seems to be what it's all about these days.

I'm so ready for this election to be over. Let's pick our President, stop the nastiness and just start moving forward.

I really need to rent "Home for the Holidays"

Because all I keep thinking is "Who are these people? How did I even get here?"

Back in the saddle.

Yesterday, Munchkin and I flew back to the states. To Texas, where much of my extended family lives.

It was actually a fantastic flight. We sat next to a woman from Spain, Ilona, who is starting a coveted post-doctoral position. She was so excited for the opportunity and to spend some time in the United States. She talked about how it had taken nearly a year for her to get all the paperwork together so it could happen. She fingered a thick folder full of papers as she told us it was done, she was on her way and she was ready.

Once we landed, we queued up for immigration. Ilona was kind enough to help me lug the dreaded car seat/stroller/50 lb. carry-on bag/child combination for what seemed like miles until we got to the line. And so, once it was our turn, it was only fair for us to wave her ahead. After all, I couldn't figure out where I had put our passports. Somewhere between extra diapers and the animal crackers, I think.

I'm guessing that the immigration official was not familiar with all of the student visa paperwork or perhaps Ilona wasn't sure exactly what papers she needed to show him. It was a thick folder of stuff. After a few minutes of failed communication, the official hollered, "I need a Spanish translator, please!"

And that's where it got surreal.

We were in the U.S. Citizen/Green Card/Permanent Resident line. The line that Ilona was told to go to (thank goodness, since she was carrying my car seat and we still had like a half mile to go) by another official when they split up visitors and residents. And apparently, the fellow in the line next to me thought the whole thing was taking too long. As the translator approached, he said, loud enough for everyone in the whole damn hall to here, "It's a crying shame when a resident of the United States of American can't speak English. Fucking Mexicans."

Then another woman piped up, "I know, right!"

I saw Ilona's face fall. I don't know if she totally understood the words but she understood the tone and that it was directed at her. How could you not? And it broke my heart that this woman who had worked her ass off to come to the States should be given this introduction the first time she steps foot in it.

So, I couldn't keep my big mouth shut.

I informed the gentleman (and I use that term loosely) next to me that the Constitution of the United States, the great document upon which our country was founded, made no mention of an official language. And over the past few hundred years, an amendment to make English the official language has been shot down every single time.

I then went on to explain that men much smarter than him -- because a smart man does not walk into an airport that employs a majority of individuals who claim Latino descent and start spouting off about "Fucking Mexicans" -- oppose the idea of an official language for a variety of reasons including impact to free trade, due process and equal protection under the law.

It's not like I expected the response to my outburst to be, "Wow, you've really given me something to think about!" The "fuck you" I got was about par for the course. But I didn't expect so many in the crowd to snicker when he did, as if his expletive really countered anything I had said.

Then I was called up to the immigration desk. I kept an eye out for Ilona at baggage claim but between a diaper change, corraling of bags and finding my ride, I didn't see her.

I hope that her new University welcomes her with open arms. I hope that these two years are all that she dreamed and more. I hope that she doesn't think that all Americans can be stereotyped. But most of all, I hope that the wonder of what comes next completely expunges any memory of a rude man in a baseball cap in line at U.S. immigration.