It usually amazes me when someone from here tells me that I’ve visited places here that they’ve never visited before… and they’ve lived here all or most of their lives (!!!). Here’s a short & simple guide for those of you who don’t explore your own hometowns. You may think your hometown is boring or worthless or useless, but maybe if you take on these simple suggestions, you’ll re-discover your city in a new light.
1. See the classics, the trademarks, the shining emblems of what makes your city yours.
Don’t be afraid to be a tourist now and again. It’s funny how we get so caught up in wanting to prove that we are natives, that we belong, that many of us go our whole lives without ever seeing the statue of liberty when we live only a few minutes away.
2. If you don’t live in the crux of the city, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, pretend you do for a day, and do as the locals do.
Eat like a local. Shop like one too. Consumerism can get the best of us all, so you have to remember that there are always fantastic little spots tucked away in secret if only you take a little time to look. When I was growing up, I used to tell my parents…
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(Did you miss the first part? Well, here you go.)
What other things have I learned so far?
6. There are a few enlightened Caucasians in the world who fully acknowledge systemic & institutionalized (or overt) racism/prejudice. “What do you mean?”, you say. Follow me for a moment:
As a person of color growing up in the most racist country on the planet (based on my personal experiences travelling and living abroad), everyday life is often colored by, and viewed through the lens of, race. Honest conversations about race & privilege – historical, current, and future – are rare in the United States. Conversations about race (and sometimes privilege) usually turn ugly and more often than not, those in the majority (or those who identify more with the majority) don’t understand where people of color are coming from. (Some don’t care to understand, but that’s another topic for another day.) I admit that when I first arrived here, one of the first things I asked my colleagues of color was “So… how racist are the White people here?” I admit that because I’m willing to look back, personally and for this blog’s purposes, and see how presumptuous that question was. But understand that coming from where I’m from, race & privilege are part of our daily lives.
I’ve been very lucky to work with, and meet, non-American white people who are open to these sorts of conversations and have them in a frank, honest & calm way. I’m not saying that there aren’t racists or racism in this country. As a matter-of-fact, stop-and-search (as it’s called in the United Kingdom, like stop-and-frisk in the U.S.) and outright racism especially in suburban & rural areas are just two of a few problems in this country when it comes to Black and minority ethnic groups. I’m saying that I have been lucky to work with & meet British (and other non-American) white people who are more open to discussing these issues. It is refreshing, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m ambivalent about returning to the U.S. for good – the United Kingdom is the lesser of 2 evils for now.
7. Contrary to popular belief, the United Kingdom – like the rest of Europe – is not a (socialist and/or liberal) utopia. As a matter-of-fact, with the recent benefits reforms and other changes now afoot, the United Kingdom is looking more like the U.S. as time goes on.
8. I appreciate having access to universal health care. There are some in the business classes who want to privatize the NHS (Wikipedia), and while it isn’t perfect (what health care system is?), I prefer it over U.S. health care. Health care is a right, in my opinion, and shouldn’t be a privilege. It’s a shame that those in the business classes want to take that away from people.
9. British humor is different from American humor. It’ll still take me some time to fully understand it, but the little I understand so far is pretty damn funny.
10. Aside from tea, which I’ve always loved, I now like a few different foods and/or food combinations. I like chutney on sandwiches, digestives (even better with chocolate), condensed milk in my tea, and my renewed love of bacon. Now granted, I need to cut it out because I’m not in the best of health :-|, but those are just a few things I’m now used to.
Consider this part 2. I think I have enough for a (last?) part 3; I could do more parts, but I don’t want to bore anyone. To be continued…
Highlighting (again) one of the negative aspects of living abroad – being away from loved ones when bad situations happen. I’ve talked about this a few times on here.
On April 15, 2013, at least 2 homemade bombs ripped through the finish line at the Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachussetts. So far, there are 3 dead – the youngest being 8 years old – and over 175 injured, some seriously/critically. I have 3 online friends who live there and, as happens online sometimes when friendships develop positively, their whereabouts & safety worried me. (Thank goodness, they’re alright.) I was off sick that day with a massive headache, so checking the news online & worrying about those friends worsened my headache. It also brought temporary flashbacks of 09.11.2001.
I was hundreds of miles away when the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings went down. I couldn’t reach my family for hours, including my mother, who worked 3 blocks away from the WTC. I later found out that my father was there too, coming out of New Jersey PATH train station, which was/is right under the WTC. I couldn’t reach my friends either. The days & weeks ahead were emotionally hard, partly because of the distance.
The only difference between then & now is that I’m thousands of miles (and a few time zones) away this time. If I was home, at least it’s easier to contact & see people. I can physically see that they’re safe & sound, and speak to them in real-time. I can’t always do that here. And that, for me, is the top negative aspect of living abroad. (I still wouldn’t change it for anything, though, no matter how hard it is.)
I don’t want to make this post about me. I just wanted to present an example of one of the negative aspects of living abroad. As I’ve said many times, living abroad isn’t all “partying & bullshit” (respect to B.I.G.). If you didn’t know, now you know.
As an expatriate, is this hard for you too? Or are there other aspects of living abroad that you think are more difficult than this? Do you know anyone who lives in Boston? Are they alright? Are you following the updates, or are you staying away from most news, like I am? What are your thoughts about everything that happened during & since this incident?
2013 Boston Marathon timeline http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-timeline-_n_3087588.html?
Some media don’t know what they’re doing http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/boston-bombings-investiga_n_3104608.html
Vigils for victims who died http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/boston-marathon-bombings-vigils_n_3102257.html
D’NALI – prayers for Boston http://dnali.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/prayers/
Philosopher Mouse Of The Hedge – Two of a kind http://philosophermouseofthehedge.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/two-of-a-kind/
04.10.2013 – Like me, he must’ve had a long day at work. The work uniform signifies that he works in either construction, public transport, or engineering works.
This is just a small sample of my photos taken in 2012. Feel free to look at my archived Weekly Photo Challenge posts for more.