Friday, July 2, 2010

Life as an Expatriate

With July 4th just around the corner, I have been reflecting a bit on my experience over the past six weeks living as a foreigner.

It is true that living outside of the US has made me appreciate more fully the blessings that we have. I think that sentiment is terribly cliché, but very true. Not simply our material wealth, but also our civil and political structures are something to be cherished. It is so easy to take for granted that we can move about free of fear, or that we can trust our police officers to do their job without taking bribes. The fact that every window I have seen in Africa has bars (including churches) is a clear indication that no one truly feels safe here.

Another intriguing aspect of spending time outside of the US has been observing other people’s opinions of America. There is a precarious balance between an affinity for American culture and disapproval of US foreign policy. The people here love to hear about America, especially rural people like in Kitete. They are amazed that most of us have cars, and that we don’t have elephants or giraffes. Meanwhile, more educated people like the priests are surprisingly well versed in US politics. They can talk at length about Democrats and Republicans, or about why they think the war in Iraq was a good or bad decision. It has been very interesting listening to their views on politics.

Of course, as in America, not everyone knows what they are talking about. For instance, just yesterday I listened to our cab driver explain how Obama is actually one of the richest men in the world because he is stealing millions of US tax dollars under the table.

Kenyan Fun Fact: Despite being one of the 30 poorest countries in the world, Kenyans politicians are among the richest. Kenyan members of parliament make more than their counterparts in Germany and the Kenyan president earns 10% more than the US president. That kind of corruption makes Rod Blagojevich look like Honest Abe.

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