2012.06.27 Here's looking at us

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

A lot of stories about the United States make the rounds in refugee camps where people from other nations are waiting for a chance to move here.

Lots of money, lots of jobs, amazing machines. The stories will vary with the location of the camp and of course they will vary in truthfulness.

 A reporter named Mary Wiltenburg interviewed refugees for a report that was broadcast on the radio program “This American Life.”

She learned there are a lot of really, really fat people here and new arrivals should be prepared not to stare. When people go to the beach, they wear swimming suits that are little more than underwear.

Old people are sent to places called nursing homes. It’s shocking to see people showing affection in public. In America people sleep in bed with their cats.

Ordinary Americans can go into a store and buy a gun. How can there be law and order, they wonder. In America there are people without homes who sleep on the streets. Surely that’s a myth.

Wiltenburg’s program launched an idea for the website Quora in which foreign visitors were invited to write about things that really surprised them about the U.S.

A student from Portugal, for example, thinks it’s strange to see American students showing up for class wearing pajamas. He also thinks it’s odd for restaurant waiters to take away an empty plate as soon as one person finishes eating.

“For me this was incredibly rude, as back home you never take the empty plates before everyone who is dining has finished their meals,” he wrote.

An Indian visitor finds it very puzzling that a bag of grapes can cost several dollars, but a McDonald’s sandwich sells for only $1.  An eastern European visitor is amazed at the portions of food served in restaurants. 

“When I eat out with my husband or friends, we usually share,” she wrote. “Not because we can’t afford it, but just because we do not need THAT much food.”

She does like the doggy-bag routine for leftovers, however. It’s not so common where she comes from.

This same person thinks it’s very odd to see people in T-shirts, shorts and sandals in the winter. She’s watched kids in Crocs running through piles of snow between the car and the mall. Those aren’t immigrant kids, she said, because they have been overdressed since November.

A Russian can’t get used to set prices. Can’t we talk about it? Isn’t it negotiable?

Americans are friendly, but relationships tend to be on the superficial side. Visitors think the initial warmness was the start of a friendship; it turned out to be a shallow, arms-length affair.

And speaking of interpersonal relationships, many foreign visitors are truly amazed that family members live so far apart—in this big country.

A few miscellaneous observations:

• There actually is an accepted piece of clothing called a “wife-beater.”

• Surprise at how much debt the average American has, and they’re still willing to take on more. 

• Many people believe the Earth is only about 6,000 years old and they mention a talking snake.

• Surprise to discover that cold medicine is controlled more tightly than sniper rifles.

• The kids are expected to leave home at 18 or so, and in old age parents need to fend for themselves.

• You can drink water from the tap?

• The frequency of clapping.

• Infantile and convenient food—no bones, no spines, seedless everything. Even desserts sometimes look like 5-year-olds were left alone in the kitchen—cookie dough ice cream, Oreo cheese cake.

• Expensive hospital bills.

• Spray cheese.

• Large personal automobiles and poor public transportation.

Some commenters reacted a little defensively and claimed the foreigners were being judgmental. One person—totally missing the point—responded this way to the remark about public transportation: “There is extensive public transportation. They are called highways, and they are all over.”

Guns in Wal-Mart, dogs in handbags, couples kissing in the park—Don’t worry,  don’t stare, Wiltenburg says, imagining someone explaining the place to guests. That’s all normal here.

  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Front.little Ball
    Fayette's Demetrious Whiteside (left)Skylar Lester attempt to keep the ball from going out of bounds during Morenci's recent basketball tournament for fourth and fifth grade teams. Morenci's Andrew Schmidt stands by.
  • Front.tug
    MORENCI pep rallies generally end with a tug of war. The senior class entry, shown above, did not advance to the finals. Griffin Grieder, Alaina Webster, Kyle Long and Jazmin Smith are shown at the front of the rope, giving it their best effort.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Athletic Fields
    SPORTS COMPLEX—Fayette’s outdoor athletic facilities will include three ball fields for summer recreation leagues at the southwest corner of the school. The baseball and softball fields, along with the running track, will be constructed on the east side of the school. Outdoor athletic fields were not part of the new school project from 2007, but voters approved a $1.4 million levy for a school addition and the sports fields last August. Both projects are scheduled to be complete by July 20.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.band
    TROMBONISTS Jake Myers (left) and Max Baker perform Friday at the annual Senior Citizens Luncheon at Fayette High School. The National Honor Society and the FFA chapter teamed up to serve a meal to area seniors and to provide musical entertainment. Both the school band and choir performed. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017