Friday, August 6, 2010

The Picture of Americans

Last Tuesday, a woman who works at la guarderia asked me an eye-opening question. She asked why so many Americans were close-minded, and didn't know/want to learn about other cultures, but then there were people like me who were willing to adventure and learn. She asked if now schools did more to teach about the world and other cultures. This was a bit of a shocker. So far, no one had asked me much more about the U.S. than the weather. I'd get the occasional, "Que tal Obama? Te gusta?" and at least I could truthfully say "Si, me gusta" and not die of embarrassment to be marked as an American. But never had someone asked me why so many were closed-minded.

Actually, I'm glad she did. It served as an eye-opener, and made me think again about how the picture of Americans today is often muttled and warped by what is shown on T.V, and in the news. I don't deny that some are close-minded, and think mainly about themselves, but not everyone is perfect (and that goes for the whole world, too). My reply to her question was that, now, in schools, they teach many more classes about the rest of the world; that I have world history classes, world literature classes (well, all this coming year, but it was simpler to state it that way), and that much more people are aware about what is going on in the world.

I realized that I haven't had much exposure to the way Americans publish themselves to the world via media. I don't watch T.V., I don't live in a big city, I don't listen to the 10 Pop Stars, I don't drive a gas-guzzling SUV. And Corvallis is such as small, liberal town that sometimes I forget that not everyone wants to explore, to travel, and to learn. Sometimes I forget that what other countries see on their T.V.s are scantously-clad women wrapped in an American flag driving large cars, or the U.S. army blowing up villages in Iraq, or millions of gallons of oil flowing into our world's precious oceans.

But I owe a big "Muchas Gracias" to this woman, who really made me stop and think, "Do I do things that make me seem like the "average" american?" "Have I come to Paraguay and represented my beliefs well?"

This is the point of exchanges, right? To learn about other cultures, and in turn, share things about yours; change the way they see the stereotypical _______ (in my case, American).

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