samedi 10 mai 2008

What is America?

No current news about host family or anything. Still waiting!! (I want to know now!!) Though I am taking Precalculus and World History over the summer to prepare.
We had our Pre Departure Orientation yesterday!! Mind, this was an old post I'm updating, so it still says the 10th of May on it. Currently, it's the 18th of May! And the 17th was the orientation! It was soooo awesome. When we first arrived, all the volunteers were walking around, talking rapidly in foreign languages to us (none of us understood), so they would see how we react to situations like that. (we'll encounter MANY of those situations in our host countries) One guy, who spoke German, said that it's good if we smile and try to understand what they're saying. haha... So, we were broken up into random groups, where we talked about how we see our country, how we see our host country, and how to break those stereotypes. We also went over the basic facts about culture shock, and how we will have to have a sense of humor, use the language, ask lots of questions, empathize, etc.
Then we had a snack the volunteers provided. They tried to bring food from a bunch of different cultures, and didn't tell us what the foods were until after we ate them. Therefore, I found out that I tried: a gooseberry, banana chips, faux-meat used in sushi, an odd ginger candy, baked bread, among other things. Some people got blood and tongue sausage, but mine didn't have any (thank god). We were then split up into long/short programs by gender. My group had only 2 other people in it, and was really relaxed. We went over the AFS rules (no hitch-hiking, driving, drugs), then went through scenarios we will (hypothetically) encounter. Then over the communication problem. (They pretty much shouted NO INTERNET! NO CALLING! for about a half-an-hour) For lunch, the volunteers opened all of our sack lunches, then served them to everyone. I hope someone liked my sandwich.
The last module-thingy was split up into regions. There were 12 people going to France! (though most were for the summer). There were 5 people from Los Angeles going to France for the year program! We sat in the grass with Cory, an AFS student in the US from France, and he pretty much just told us EVERYTHING we'll need to know. For example: there is a specific way you must hold your hands while eating, french people don't hug often, students protest a lot, people go out to bars/clubs/cafes to hang out with friends or meet people, along with other very interesting things that I had no idea about. Everyone asked questions about cell phone service, boyfriends/girlfriends, sports (In soccer, support Lyon! Not Paris!), and food.
I just feel so excited, about going! It is no longer a hypothetical situation, but a real one! I'm actually going to France next year! Whoah!
The AFS volunteers said to finish reading CultureTrek lately (special booklet AFS gives out), and it talks about how you should know and understand your own country, so you can better understand another.
And so I've been thinking....what is America? What is the United States?

America is everyone of every culture you can imagine, living within the same borders.
America is the white headlights after headlights after headlights on the other side of the freeway, as we drive, and drive, and drive.
America is smiling through every awful, uncomfortable situation, talking with your hands, looking people in the eye.
America is confusion, everything too blaring and bright, too fast, too hard to understand.
America is walking under an expanse of pale sky too large to possibly comprehend.
America is ignorance, not knowing and never knowing.
America is music--screaming, soft, choral, metal, everything ever imagined.
America is resistance, knowing you should just let life be, but wanting something more.