Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Still Alive And Well

I came across two news stories today that made it clear how flawed our society still is, how the old prejudices continue to taint our reactions, however subtly.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a prominent scholar and Harvard chaired professor was arrested last Thursday by a police officer at his own home a few blocks off the Harvard campus. The scary thing isn't that a woman called 911 to report 2 black males trying to break into a house. They were. Of course, it was his own house and he and his driver (he was coming home from a trip to China to film a PBS documentary) were having to force the jammed front door open, but you can understand why it may have looked suspicious.

The sad part was that when it came to the verbal confrontation between he and the police officer, even after Professor Gates showed photo identity proving who he was, he was still judged to be out of line. I wonder how the officer would have reacted to an angry, non-black man yelling at him for being assumed to be breaking into his own house. He might have gotten angry himself, but would he have arrested that almost 60 year old man, a Harvard professor, on his own front porch?

The second article's headline by the New York Times says it all - "New Jersey G.O.P. Candidate Picks Woman as His No. 2". Really? Still? We may have a black man as President, but the idea of a woman in a position of power is still surprising enough to warrant this kind of headline? I'm giving the NYT the benefit of the doubt because... well, because it's the New York Times! As my BIL would probably say, the bastion of liberal propaganda. That's why I love it! All humor aside though, it still got my goat... it just felt condescending.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Invitation Accepted

So, yes, I finally did turn in the guest post kindly requested by another fave blogger of mine, Niamh Griffin of Writer on the Way Home, and I even beat my deadline! :-)

I'm kind of giddy about the whole thing. It's just so cool that someone likes my writing enough to want more than what I naturally sputter out on my own site.

It's up today, so head on over and check it out. And tell me what you think - comments are a blogger's best friend!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Aww, shucks!

Yesterday I got this totally unexpected and wonderful email from Tripbase.com telling me that I'd won an award! How cool is that?!

It seemed they scoured (scratched?) the web for travel-related blogs and somehow came across mine.

I didn't win, but I was a finalist for the Expat Blog category.

Amazing! Thanks so much. I guess this thing does get read after all! :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Agh, the pressure!

I've been invited to be a guest blogger on my blog-friend's site where she writes about life as a returned expat back home to Ireland - Writer On The Way Home. What an honor! Really, it makes me very impressed with myself :-)

Except, I've had this on my To Do list for weeks now and have not written word one! It's due tomorrow.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Anniversary Reflections

We're now officially in July and you know what that means?! It's now just 2 weeks shy of two years since I started this mad adventure. Shock and awe!!

I could go on and on about what this experience has meant to me - actually I have, ad nauseum via this blog :-) But maybe the quickest way to capture how much I've been changed is through a look at how my language has changed. It may seem superficial on the surface, but language (grammar, spelling, usage) has always been an integral and deliberate part of how I present myself to the world. And changes therein have always represented core shifts in how I see myself and feel about who I've become.

Coat of arms of Jamaica.
I remember moving to Miami from Jamaica when I was nine. How strange everything was - flat, wide open, covered in tarmac. But, the greatest point of friction was the differences in language. I was a native English-speaker, but Jamaican English and it's Patois counterpart were not the same as American English. And, of course, as the outsider, my way was the wrong way. Not only did I sound strange with my Jamaican accent - it would be several years before I got the benefit of sounding "exotic" once I moved away from Florida - but the King's English that I spoke and wrote actually got me in trouble. It took several months for me to start getting the A's on spelling tests that I always strove for (and deserved!) because I would refuse or forget to spell words without the "u". Humor, color, flavor, etc.

Then I moved here to Ireland, and I started getting noticed for the weirdest thing! Suddenly, my language and accent started identifying me to others as American!! And, again, I was exotic. Ahh, how I'd missed it :-)

Now I found myself going through a strangely familiar experience. Holding on to my "normal" way of saying things while feeling acutely aware of sticking out by sounding different. The local way of saying things sounded both strange and fascinating. If I'd found myself somewhere that spoke a foreign language, I'd have been eager to try it out and show my respect by trying to make myself understood in the local lingua franca. But, because it was still (technically) English, I was resistant to the idea of making a fool of myself by trying to sound Irish. Plus, why give up being "exotic" again? I like being different. I was unique again.

Ah, but time moves on and before you know it you've been infected! First it was the little lilt at the end of every sentence. Then, it was substituting the gentle inquiry-style sentence for the brash, direct American one ("Will we go to the pub?" vs. "Let's go get a drink"). Now? Now, I'm stuck. I hear myself choosing to use the Irish vocabulary automatically, but it's too late, I've already said it - "That's grand", "Ring me", "Your new car's boot is tiny!", "Take the lift to the 3rd floor", "Where's your toilet" or "I've got to go to the loo".

The truth is I've almost stopped wincing every time I hear myself. The next step will be to not even notice what I'm saying. I've already found myself searching for the American term for certain words and concepts - how do you say "tailback" in American again? The process is well on it's way and clearly there's nothing I can do about it outside of abandoning my new life here and going back to the States.

Nah, I'll just live with it. Happily.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009


Fireworks #1Image by Camera Slayer via Flickr

Happy, Happy Fourth of July everyone! 

Here's to kicking some British butt and defeating the invading aliens at the very last minute.  Oh... wait, that last part was fictional, wasn't it?  Oh well, I say anything that involves Will Smith deserves celebrating.

Enjoy your grilled burgers (well done with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and ketchup), bucket of beer, and lazing around in the sun.  Now, if only I had some sparklers!
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