Saturday, May 14, 2016

Yearnings for a Distant Time

It's been ten months since we moved back to the U.S. from Thailand. The longer we stay here, the more I long for our life abroad. At least once a week, I think back to what my life was like a year ago on that particular day, and I can't believe that was me, living that life. That life seems so distant now, so dream-like, so surreal. Was it really me riding on a scooter through the streets? Was it really us strolling through the markets, bargaining with people with gestures and in a foreign language? Is it really possible that we saw, walked through the streets of, and ate amazing food in all these different cities in Asia every few months without even a second thought? Was it possible that we were surrounded by people unimaginably rich and improbably poor, all of whom were kind and friendly? And that everyone, educated and uneducated, knew more about the U.S. and the world, and what was going on here, than I did?

It's worse when we speak with our friends abroad. Every little thing they mention about life abroad makes me ache for the "good old days," when every day was filled with interesting sights and sounds, kind and friendly people, and amazing and fresh food. Right now, I feel as if I'm in limbo, just biding my time until we can move abroad again. We are working towards our goal professionally and personally, keeping our eyes and ears open for international schools, and asking our friends abroad to keep us posted on any openings at their schools. Another family that we became close with in Thailand has just been offered a job in Chile, at one of the best schools in South America. I am so happy and excited for them, but at the same time, it fills me with impatience and anguish because I want to be there with them right now, not two or three years from now.

There is something about life in the U.S. that is constraining and suffocating. It is sad and depressing. Sure, there were ups and downs when we were abroad, but for the most part, I felt carefree and I knew everything was going to turn out fine no matter what. We lived in the present, thought about the future sometimes (but not with fear or worry), and enjoyed ourselves on a regular basis. Here, there is a seemingly endless list of things to worry about and to think about. Life feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.

On an almost daily basis, I listen to my colleagues bemoan the number of bills they have to pay, the high cost of living and health care, and the high cost of higher education in this country. I am ashamed and sad when I see the numerous homeless people in Washington, D.C., the national capital of what is supposed to be one of the world's wealthiest countries. I am outraged when I see the Smithsonian museums put on an amazing event for children, but the cost is so high that only the affluent families of the suburbs of D.C. can afford it, while the inner-city kids are left out once again. After having been in a developing country where even the poor people can live a decent life, where health care is affordable and good, where people take care of and watch out for one another so hardly anyone goes hungry or is homeless, the gap between the haves and have-nots of this country, and the lack of caring, is more apparent to me than before. It is a disgrace and infuriating that a country such as the U.S. is in the state that it is, and that life here is so oppressive and miserable for so many. So, so many people just think of themselves, are apathetic, or don't feel any responsibility whatsoever towards helping fellow human beings. Others are either willfully or unintentionally ignorant, but have no desire or curiosity to learn and question the status quo.

Many Americans insist that America is great, and everyone else loves and wants to be in this country. That is not so. Most of these people don't want to see or know the truth. They have no idea that people all over the world don't like this country or its people, and that we are the laughingstock of many in this world. Most Americans live in a bubble and are completely ignorant about the rest of the world, even when it comes to simple, basic knowledge such as where a particular country is located, let alone current events, views, and cultures around the world.

Most of my current views about this country and its people are negative. As I told a friend overseas, when I went to Thailand, I regained some faith in humanity, but completely lost it again once we returned home. I hope one day we'll be among more caring and kinder people, those who care about each other as human beings, again.

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