East or West, Home is Best

We arrived home last night to a clean house and dinner.  Have I mentioned we have wonderful children who did this for us?  And while I was dreading a drastic temperature change from the 30’s of Europe to the 100’s of Phoenix, we woke up to tourist-friendly 70’s; the afternoon is reaching the mid 80’s. It’s still hotter than I prefer, and sweaters are already washed and ready to pack away. But heck nowhere is perfect.

Seeing and hearing about the States from outside the States looking in is an exercise in world politics. It’s good to remember the rest of the world doesn’t sound like us, think like us or want to be like us. What the US government does economically (e.g. ‘shut-down, stalemate or inability to play nice’) affects the rest of the world; and they are watching with opinions of their own.  The United States is a beautiful, huge country with vast open spaces and beautiful natural resources.  Europeans can’t fathom that you could drive for three days and never leave the country or change languages. We are separated by two oceans from other world cultures other than our Latin neighbors to the south. (I’m not ignoring Canada – but they speak perfect English in most places and they’re not a big cultural change.)  While it makes us harder to attack by ground, it also means it’s expensive to travel to Europe, so fewer people experience different cultures overseas or need to learn a second language.

But don’t underestimate the impact of our media and products to spread worldwide.  What is surprising is how much American music, in English, plays on the radio and in stores.  Polish taxi drivers had Polish language radio – but not stores.  In fact walking down one street at night there were a group of students strumming a guitar – can’t remember the song – but it was American.  And while Europe uses metric, instead of non-metric, Centigrade instead of Fahrenheit, and calendars start on Monday instead of Sunday, for the most part many things are the same.  There’s a pharmacy on nearly every block (think apothecary and you’ll recognize both the Polish and German version.)  Dan Brown’s Inferno went on sale this week in Polish, and you’ll recognize other titles as well.  And some American brands – well they’re just everywhere. 

My mind is reeling with new information I need to digest, process and incorporate into a more complete account.  More segments to follow.
(Photo of American Gothic by Grant Wood was hanging in our Warsaw hotel room.)

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