At Least I Don’t Hear Bombs

“So how did you end up in Belgium?” I ask, just trying to make small talk as we wait for our friends to get their sandwich orders.  Mohammad and I have only just met during the lunch break for our intensive Dutch Language course. The only thing I know about him is his name and that he is from Pakistan.

“I’m seeking asylum,” he informs me, his tone flippant.  Mohammad gave the statement the weight of a snowflake and it lands on me as an avalanche. I don’t know for certain, but I have pretty good idea that the reason he’s seeking asylum is largely influenced my country’s military presence in Pakistan.  To say I feel uncomfortable doesn’t quite capture the nuance of emotions running through me. No previous experience has given me a reference on how to proceed after such a response.  Continue reading

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American Awareness: Thoughts on Global Citizenship

I am never more aware of being American than when I am abroad. I don’t quite know how to explain this particular feeling of American awareness. It’s not pride or arrogance, or even shame, but finding the words to accurately describe this feeling is proving elusive. At home there is a truly bizarre fascination with your heritage, but I almost guarantee that every time the 1/8 Polish, 1/8 Korean, 1/4 Brazilian and 1/4 Kenyan American is abroad, they only indicate their American heritage when asked “Where do you come from?”

Lindy Hop lesson before the live music starts

Last friday I was transported back in time to September 4, 1944 – the day that British troops liberated Antwerp from German forces. To commemorate the event, the city of Antwerp put on a small festival in Groenplaats called Brevrijd! where people could come out and listen to live big band music  and practice their Lindy Hop steps. And it was here that I was at once hit by the strangeness of being an American abroad. Continue reading