Thursday, May 31, 2007

O Beautiful for Spacious Skies

Last week the boyfriend and I crossed the Atlantic and landed on the beaches of Spain for a weeks vacation. This was a trip we planned a few months ago which celebrated 3 very important (well to us) 30th birthday, the boyfriend's 30th birthday and our 2-year anniversary. So, for 4 full days, including the 2 days of travel back and forth, we were completely engulfed in the Spanish culture while holed up in a small beachtown 30 minutes south of Barcelona. I am hesitant to reveal the name of the town as doing that would drive up tourism, raise the prices, make hotels harder to book, etc. So for now, you'll just have to take my word.

Upon our arrival, we did the best we could trying to speak the language (some of my 3 years of high school spanish returned) and not stand out as complete tourists. I am sure that me cluthcing my camera and snapping away at everything in sight didn't help our case. In addition to trying to speak the language, we intentionally slowed down our pace. I mean really, the beach wasn't going anywhere so why should we speed-walk there?

We noticed several things while we were there. The first being that we were completely surrounded by people who looked relaxed, refreshed and happy. And I am not just speaking of the tourists who were on vacation or the workers trying to make money off of the tourists. I am talking everyone. Construction workers. Labor workers. Bus boys. Everyone. The second thing we noticed was that everything, from souvenirs shops to restaurants to banks to clothing stores all shut down from 2 o'clock to 5 o'clock for siesta. The man who walked the beach selling drinks and snacks was also no where to be found during 2 and 5. And the last thing we noticed was that we were 2 of 3 Americans who seemed to be in the town for the week. Which I have to admit was a very nice change. Being away from the mother ship is always nice. The boyfriend and I immediately looked at one another and realized we are living the completely wrong way of life. We work 12-hour days 5 days a week. Pressure and stress is extremely high. Big cities are polluted. And overall, there is very little reward or satisfaction when working this hard.

The only english speaking channel we were able to get on the hotel television was CNN World. About 90% of the coverage revolved around America, the war, Iraq, the a$$hole who runs our country, Iran, the feud on 'The View' and who won 'American Idol.' When watching all of this and seeing a different point of view it made me realize how much of a joke other countries think we are. And after hearing and comprehending these different points of view, I have to say that a small part of me cannot blame them. I even agreed with them.

On our return trip home we had a layover in London. Our plane sat at the gate and waited for a group of 44 college students who were on our flight but delayed from their flight coming in from Paris. After all 44 loud, obnoxious youngsters boarded we were off. But not before one of them felt the need to announce to the entire plane she had a 'fcuking panic attack trying to run and make the connection flight.' Yeah, thanks for that. Students made several trips to the drink area of the flight carrying back trays of alcholic beverages for themselves and their friends even after meals and drinks were finished being served. Clearly, they were intending to get drunk. Who has a strong enough stomach to get drunk when turbulance hits at 30,000 feet? And lets not forget the chick sitting directly behind me who was clearly raised in a barnyard. She put her feet up on the armrest of the chair diagnally across from her. And she didn't know the person sitting in that seat. Her leg was spread across the walking aisle and needed to be moved everytime someone tried passing.

Upon our touchdown at JFK airport, through the applause of the 44 obnoxious, loud college students came the comments 'Thank god we're home. Just spent the last 2 weeks trudging around Europe.' Know where I was 2 weeks ago? Working 12-hour days at my job! You know, the one in the real world.

By far, the best 'Welcome back to America' came when walking through immigration and then again at the baggage claim. At immigration, you are apparently not allowed to be on a cell phone. If you think about it, it makes sense you not speak on a phone when a goverment official is stamping you into the country. That's common courtisy. But according to the rules at JFK, they don't even want you on a cell phone while being couralled in line waiting to get stamped into the country. And yet there are no signs posted anywhere enforcing this rule. The extremely large, over-weight woman working the customs line who feels the need to have attitude and yell at everyone demanding respect (no joke) does not count as a posted request to enforce this rule if you ask me. Seriously. Lose the attitude (and a few pounds). Your job is not that hard. You stand there, point and tell people which line to go to. Calm the fcuk down. You are a nobody. Just like everyone else standing in line. And you are also no more important than anyone standing in line.

At baggage claim as everyone pushes their way closer to the carosel as they push people out of their way cause no one else's bag will be there but theirs is where I saw by far the best welcome back. Directly across from the boyfriend and I was a middle age white woman. Standing next to her was a 20-something African American male. As her luggage approached she grabbed it and struggled lifting it off. The 20-something male grabbed it to help her and she yanked it from his grasp as if he was going to snatch it away and run through customs. A dirty look followed as opposed to a 'thank you.' so much for lending a helping hand.

Now, please. Do not get me wrong. I love America and am extremely grateful to have been born and raised here. Is all of this my extreme jet-lag talking? Could I possibly have the post-vacation blues? Yes to all of those questions. But come on. Is it any wonder why so many others hate us? Look at all of the ammo we give them. and take a close look around the next time you visit somewhere else that isn't America. The equations just don't add up.


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