My cousin, who moved to Indonesia to teach English shortly before I came here, recently updated his Facebook status to something that captured a thought I had but couldn’t quite articulate.
“Registered for an absentee ballot; there is something oddly patriotic about living in another nation.”
I don’t know quite what it is about living in a different country that gives me an intensified sense of patriotism, but I feel it every day. As I make my way through back alleys behind my flat (and past an old, brick wall that any day now is going to collapse — hopefully not on me) to the bus stop, where I board a bus to get to school. As I walk through the school and greet the students with a simple “hello,” and they smile and say it back.
I know that our country — particularly its government — has its obvious flaws at times and certainly, its embarrassing and distasteful moments. And there are certain changes that we must work toward if our guaranteed freedoms are ever to be truly realized. But I am proud of the ideas that our country stands for, for the rights that its citizenship allows.
Without my citizenship, perhaps it would not be so easy for me to travel to foreign lands, to learn from different people and to educate myself in new ways. Without it, perhaps I would not be able to be here, right now. Because, although it is a different type of freedom, it is one I am grateful for.
While I am in another country, I have the honor of representing my country to people who may have never met an American before. And I hope to do it justice.
I write this now because it is the week of the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. I, of course, like most Americans who remember that day, know exactly what I was doing, and I can remember the tiniest of details about that day. I watched the second plane hit the tower and both towers crumble, live on the news.
This year, on the 11th anniversary of that day, I enjoyed a beer and a cheeseburger with two of the other American teachers here, and we talked about what that day was like for us and the thoughts we have about it.
On the first leg of my journey over here, I flew from Columbus to New York City. It was a small plane, and I do not like flying, for many reasons. A man in the back of the plane had taken a picture of the inside of it on his smartphone. The flight attendant, a man who looked to be in his mid-40s and like something of a badass, saw him and went back to firmly tell him he must delete any images he took of inside the plane. He told him this multiple times and stood there until the pictures were gone.
I don’t know why that man took pictures of the plane — probably something as simple as to Tweet about a trip he was embarking on, or to post it to Facebook to see how many “likes” it would get. Maybe he just likes planes.
Then there was the unfortunate thought and assumption that crept into my mind — that he was taking pictures of the inside of the plane to later use for bad things.
I’m not proud of thoughts like that, because I would like to naturally assume the best of people. But thoughts like that are a reminder of the fears that that day brought to life.
Tuesday morning, during my first-hour class, I lead a devotion and prayer.
When I was a 7th-grader on that day, I did not understand its impact. I was not particularly emotional about it, just confused and shellshocked.
During the prayer two days ago, however, I had to fight back the tears.
Again, I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about living in another country that makes me feel so patriotic. But I sure felt whatever it was on Tuesday.