Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pride of the Yankees

Today is the PRC's (People's Republic of China, that is) 57th birthday. Let me tell you, the Chinese are a pretty patriotic bunch, and they get 7 full days off to celebrate. It may sound like a pleasant idea in theory, but just imagine yourself in a country of 1.3 billion people in which practically everyone gets the same week off of work. It's a nightmare, but that's a whole other blog.

What I'm writing about today is my own country and what it means to be an American in China. It's a pretty great place to be an American, as opposed to, let's say, Europe. Many Chinese seem to admire us (although this is mostly impart to our killer b-ball skillz) and some even fear us. Just to give an example, foreigners who own cars have special black liscense plates, while Chinese people have blue plates. No policeman will dare ticket a black plated car. Being a foreigner, I do feel like I can get away with pretty much anything. And if anyone dares to yell at me I can just feign ignorance with a simple "wo ting bu dong!" (rough translation: "I hear you, but I have no idea what the hell you are saying!")

According to Ming, I am particularly powerful due to my nationality. He believes American shouldn't be afraid of anything because we come from the strongest, most influencial country in the world. I wasn't really sure how to react when he said this. Does the country we come have that much influence on who we are? Does being an American mean I should be friendly, confident, fat, blue-eyed, and rich? In my experience, most of the Chinese assume I am all of these things, although I wouldn't catagorize myself as any of them.

Ming also pointed out to me how proud and patriotic Americans are. When the National Anthem plays, everyone stops and people often put their hands over their hearts. I guess the Chinese don't do this. Maybe we just have a better anthem than them.

I asked one of my American co-workers, Michael, what he thought of all this. He, as well as other foreigners here in BJ, refer to Americans as Yankees. (I'm not sure what to make of this. . .the only Yankees I've ever known of are a baseball team in New York and a Doodle Dandle who stuck a feather in his cap and called it, of all things, "macaroni.") He believes that us Yankees shoulder a great burden, because we have the whole world looking at us. Maybe this is true, but I'm still happy to be a Yankee. While in China, I have the freedom to do and have pretty much anything what I want. And, one day (hopefully soon!) I can return to that one special place in the world where one can go through a drive-thru to get married; open a checking account; and get a tall, non-fat, triple shot latte. Yep, life as an American is pretty good.

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