It's getting to the point where if I catch a glimpse of the United States on the news or a TV show, it already seems just a little bit foreign to me. Just a little. Like oooh, the sidewalk curbs aren't painted black and white there! It's almost like that time we went to Jordan for four months and when we came back, everyone in the US was saying "absolutely!" instead of "yes." It was sudden, inexplicable, and it happened while we were gone. Now that we've been "gone" for over a year, these little changes are racking up and I can't keep up with them all. I don't know who Tim Tebow is. I don't know what the rank and file really think about all this Occupy stuff, or about the Republican presidential candidates, for that matter. It's been ages since I heard anyone complain about gas prices in person. Today, just for the sake of forging a common bond with my fellow Americans, just to be in the know, I looked up the price of gas.
I felt a pang of...something (I'm not sure what) when I caught a glimpse of the most recent Good Housekeeping cover the other day. It was so AMERICAN, and ever so slightly so other. It was as if for the first time in my life I was able to take a step back from my own native culture and regard it from afar. All at once I could see what the world's perception of American culture is, which is difficult to do when you're immersed in it. And I have to say, I liked a lot of what I saw. America gets a lot of grief from other countries, but there is something so spunky and carefree and young and earnest about it, too.
America reminds me of these young Emiratis I teach, in a way. They're full of energy and relatively new to the world and until they learn otherwise (and they will), they believe there is nothing they can't achieve.
And that's how you know I've been in the Middle East too long, when I start comparing the US to Emirati youth. I'll stop now. My point is that I feel like I'm drifting away from essential cultural knowledge when it comes to the US. Who can fill me in on the minutiae I'm missing that I can't pick up from news and blogs and talking with other similarly disconnected expatriates?