If you have traveled very much, stayed in a foreign country for more than a few weeks, you might feel as I do sometimes: like a resident. Once you master a few words or phrases of the local language and can find your way around a menu, locate bathrooms and know enough to say please and thank you, you are on your way to feeling like a temporary citizen.
Being a temporary citizen carries no rights or privileges of course even though at times you might consider making a suggestion or two on how we do that back home in Canada. These little lapses in judgment happen more often when the natives speak your language or a version of the Queen’s English.
Of course, a person ought to do a little research on any country before you embark on a journey into foreign lands so you know enough to stay away from commenting on politics, religion and that other social subject . . . whatever it was. Like when we were in Mexico last fall we quickly found out that you didn’t talk about The Alamo - the Hollywood version. The defenders of the fort were actually Texan rebels who seized the fort from the Mexicans in a step towards independence from Mexico. I’m sure the movie depicted it the other way around: certainly, that was the history lesson we got while visiting a historical site of that war.
Visiting England there is simply no point in trying to explain the advantages of driving on the right-hand side of the road. And in truth, any country that can master roundabouts must know something about driving. Eating fish and chips off a newspaper though is absurd unless you like printer’s ink. But a piece of cod does taste kind of good that way.
Visiting South Korea via the televised Olympic Games gave a person the chance to cheer for athletes from any country, based solely on great performances, skills, and effort to cement their title as an Olympian. Of course, if you have ever been a temporary citizen of Jamaica you have to love our bobsled teams!
Being a frequent visitor to the United States I know their national anthem almost as well as our own (still don’t have the bilingual version down pat). I even try to sing along although those high notes at the end usually catch me. No comment about the words.
Speaking their version of English, most Americans, (no comment about why they have usurped that word for themselves when we are all Americano on both the North and South and Central parts of these continents) I meet with I am able to carry on a conversation, except those with New York City or worse, Boston accents. The thing is, you fall into thinking you are a citizen after a while. You want to add your voice of reason to the debates going on in Washington or Tallahassee.
You feel you have to comment when just down the coast there is that terrible shooting at a school. You feel that you ought to have some say in the madness - the NRA, assault rifles, mental health, and worse still, the unbelievable arming of teachers. Then you see a video sponsored by Corcoran, our hopeful for State office that distorts the truth, is fear-mongering and tells you that the gun culture is alive, well and thriving. However, you are just visiting.
We do live in a global village. Communications span borders and despite some governments trying to stop words and images, this will only improve. More free trade will only equalize the wealth in industrial countries and those with natural resources will slowly climb the economic ladder to join the free trade marketing system that for now, holds sway. When we eventually reach a non-growth based economy, life may focus on how well we can live within our boundaries of decency and peaceful coexistence.
We are, after all, just visiting.