Monday, April 23, 2007

The Lady of Assumption

I put a rather sarcastic comment on one of my fantabulousbloggyfriend's latest post and I sort of regretted it as soon as I'd done it (there I go again - foot in mouth disease). Suggesting that something nice written about America by an Australian was not highly on the cards. But it got me thinking about the assumptions I make about residents of distant nations. (Something ClareBear berates me about frequently - I am the Lady of Assumption - no offence to the Catholic readers).

The old notions, the English are dirty, the Irish are stupid, the Chinese spit in the kitchen sink, Americans are Hawaiian shirted parochials, Samoans are wife bashers, Arabs are terrorists, Greeks smell of garlic - it's really not the case. I thought, "How many people from different nations do I really know, have I come in close contact with and really understand". Actually, very few. I have met one Malaysian moslem, quite a few Chinese Australians, mainly due to the high asian influence in the area in which I live, my doctor is Indian, I work with a Polish Argentinian, an Irishman, a Mauritian an Italian and a South African. One of my dear friends is a Cypriot and another a Macedonian, my family by marriage has a strong German and Welsh connection and I have a load of Greek and Italian friends but that's about it. So I judge their nationhood based solely on them and their representation of their homeland. Really, apart from the tourists one meets abroad, I've only had close contact with one American family.

They were lovely. Mum, Dad and two kids who's Hotel had let them down after booking tickets and flights to attend the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a friend who owned a hotel and had taken their frantic plea for accommodation to heart rang me, knowing my living situation. Our house is more of a compound. A main house where Babybro, Stressany and their progeny now live and my house, divided only by a pool room and entertaining area so could be made really self-contained and the perfect location for Olympic venues. . .I agreed to this family staying in my house for two weeks while the Olympics were on. They paid handsomley and I scored a new microwave and outdoor BBQ table and some fresh linen for them to sleep in. I also agreed to drive them to the appropriate bus locations so that they could meet their events. They were terrific ambassadors for their country.

This isn't an apology, just a recognition that my assumptions about a people are rarely true to form. He was a solicitor, his wife an educator but not wealthy. He defended Washington State farmers from improper land acquisition for development. Their kids were normal, happy 14 and 16 year olds attending government schools and we had quite a few nice encounters with them from BBQ's to taking them shopping at the local mall. I haven't kept in touch, mainly my own slackness, they sent me a Christmas card that year but I guess I was just their landlady for a short time but to the Perkins Family, you were a credit to your nation, sweet, intelligent, patriotic, informative and good company and not at all the brash Americans that we in Australia tend to associate with that leviathon of a nation.

There is a groundswell here that Americans are all parochial, gun-toting, uninformed, domineering and brash. "Oh do you speak Aboriginal", (you can buy T-shirts in Europe that claim "There are no Kangaroos in Austria".

However, that hasn't been my experience either in America or at home. I correspond with a few Americans and they don't fit my assumptive mould. Who could blame them for thinking we're a nation of beer-swilling, khaki clad crocodile wrestlers with foul mouths and a love of bottom feeding seafood. But Brian . . .I have to keep the 'anti torch' burning. Don't take me too seriously. I still want to have a wine tasting in your basement!

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