My most recent “Proud to be American” moment

For the past year and a half, I’ve lived in Singapore, writing up a storm, exploring Southeast Asia, making friends from all over (but mostly England, as random as that is). I haven’t been around many Americans. I moved home to Wisconsin last week.

Living abroad has given me a new appreciation of what it means to be American. it’s helped me recognize our unique culture and subcultures. It’s given me the chance to see my country–the ugly, crazy, and beautiful parts–through the eyes of non-Americans, who are fascinated by us. While I was in Singapore, the United States went through the government shutdown (which was SO hard to explain), major gun rights and Affordable Care Act debates, Ferguson, President Obama’s executive order on immigration, ISIS, Ukraine/Russia conflict, and the spread of marijuana legalization and gay marriage recognition (to name a few things). I’m not here to pontificate, but that’s a lot of intense stuff. I also missed a gubernatorial election and I couldn’t absentee vote; that was upsetting. I have to say, prior to living abroad, I didn’t feel particularly proud to be American. NOT living in the U.S. changed that some.

Something really moved when I returned home in October (after eight months away) and again last week when I moved back. My plane landed in Minneapolis (Detroit in October). As I waited in the U.S. Citizen immigration line, looking around at my fellow Americans, it hit me both times. The people in line with me came from many different racial/ethnic backgrounds: African American, white, Latino, a variety of Asian ethnic groups. You can’t identify an American based on their skin color, facial features, or even the language they are speaking.We look different, but we are ALL American. We are the same People.

1-Cent-Shield-E-Pluribus-Unumfrom colnect.com/

“E Plurbus Unum”…one from many. There are very, very few countries that would have citizen immigration lines that are as diverse as ours.

It made me proud to be American.

564095_978934441105_163612410_n

Advertisements

So…I’m moving from Singapore back to Wisconsin in less than twenty-four hours

…and this is me:

14-melissa-mccarthy-dancing-gifI feel like this should be a post about all the wonderful things I’ve learned about myself and the world, the new perspectives I have on what it means to be American or a Wisconsinite, or my plans for dealing with reverse culture shock and reintegration into Wisconsin life…or something deep like that.That’s all coming, I’m sure, but as I’m trying to cram my life into suitcases (yes, suitcases, because we’re not shipping anything back), I just don’t have the cognitive energy to reflect on all that yet. Especially with the whirlwind of goodbyes the last few days has been.

It’s been a good run, this year and a half in Singapore. I’ve written and edited a novel, and just gotten an agent for it. I’m well into the first draft for another. I’ve visited: Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia (Bali and Bintan), Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Oh, and Singapore. I may have broken my face a lil bit in Cambodia–just one of many interesting travel stories I now have. I’ve frolicked with elephants. Seen kangaroos, koalas, and kookaburras in the wild. Done extensive field research into vocabulary and spelling differences between American and British English. Made lots of friends from around the world–even converted one English friend into a Packers fan. Got into the Singapore schools a little bit, to teach a creative writing course to local 4th graders and also teach a Saturday enrichment class to local five-year-olds. Spent a year and a half relying solely on public transportation which, thankfully, is pretty great in Singapore. Ended up stopping at at least 47 out of 113 MRT stations (Singapore’s subway). Yes, I was keeping track 😛 Lived being the minority, an Ang Moh, which I think everyone should experience. There’s another post I’ll write some day; it does help you appreciate different aspects of white privilege to be sure. And I could go on and on.

I’ve NOT been as food-venturous as I should have, I’ll admit that. I have this thing about fish. And mayonnaise. And sketchy-looking chicken. And meat on bones. So…that’s my bad. I’ll miss satay and prata and iced Milo (and flat whites, though those are Aussie). I wish I would have explored more of Singapore, as in the Heartlands and parts where expats don’t go. I did a little bit while working in the schools (Pasir Ris and Alljunied areas), but I wish I would have learned more about Singlish and local cultures. I’m sure as I’m plugging back into my old life, there will be many more things I regret as well.

I’m excited to get back to my family and the niece and goddaughter I barely know. I can’t wait to go back to working in the schools and trying to make a difference in the lives of children and families. I’m excited for cheese curds and good, cheap microbrews and snow! Yes, snow! I cannot wait for seasons and cold and being able to run in the middle of the day. And a car. I cannot wait to have a car again. Can I still have one and not pay thousands of dollars a year for it? Not having to make car payments or pay for insurance or gas or repairs has been amazing.

After the dust settles and I’ve wrapped my brain around plugging back into my old life, I’ll write those posts on what being American means to me and Midwest culture and how living abroad changed my entire worldview and self-view. But for now I think I’ll go make some cookies or something 😛 Or maybe I’ll stop by the coffee shop in Chip Bee Gardens that knows my order one last time. It’s a blue orange mocha by the way.

1623390_10100702177044105_1832868065462732496_nSome of my favorite pictures from Singapore:

photo 1-13 photo 1-14 photo 2-13 (2) 10255684_10100468249721335_7048744116581598285_n 10344798_10100503656096675_313119749541113872_n photo-210441254_10100521329953125_6840986756202703445_n 10454305_10100521330027975_5910598115609363128_n photo (6) photo-1 (5)  photo-3 (6) photo-3 (10) photo-5 (3) photo-5 photo-7 photo-10 P1190738 P1190742 P1190617 P1190580 photo 1 (4)photo 1-11 (4)photo 2-1photo 1-12 (2)photo 2-13 (4)photo 4-710256652_10100472610562175_862716297238446126_o

To this:

Downtown Sparta 1472931_10100396258013295_1544796563_n 945408_10100396323586885_1528026072_n 1551746_10100402888435875_978291620_n 1509810_10100406851698465_1346135851_n 1509211_10100407359475875_1718564115_n 1476445_10100399083236525_620240967_n 1506736_10100397524984275_644816372_n 1476281_10100397525807625_1962971806_n 1499504_10100402888336075_2082870151_n289056_808394788935_1998542658_o 532166_978935833315_519093868_n314213_10100127013087285_1663191494_n  557168_10100111065895585_2043205287_nphoto 3

Christmas in Singapore

So Singapore’s an interesting place. A city-nation-island. One of the safest cities on Earth. Home to over 200 malls. You can find a Hindu temple right next to a Catholic church. A Buddhist temple right next to a mosque. This year, I decided to travel around a bit and document Christmas in Singapore.

Singapore’s about 18% Christian, but Christmas is still a very big deal. The malls and and Orchard Road, Singapore’s version of Times Square, get decked out. Honestly, Singapore may be more decorated than what I’ve seen in the United States, at least in the Midwest.You can also buy real Christmas trees. Though small, they actually go for a reasonable price. Malls somehow create fake snow and you can go and play in it at certain times of the day. Others have foam snow parties.

So here’s my photographic Christmas journey through Singapore.

Each mall and Changi Airport has it’s own Christmas theme, which can range from typical US mall to Alice in Wonderland and Smurf Christmas.

photo 1-11 (2) photo 1-2 photo 1-16 photo 2-16 P1190627P1190626photo 1-14   1476441_10100395293236715_886722787_n photo 1-1P1190613 P1190611photo 2

Orchard Road goes all-out starting at the end of October. I’m pretty sure you can see it from space. Orchard Road has over 20 malls, most of which are connected by underground tunnels. It’s literally a maze of malls. The first time I went there, it took me 15 minutes just to figure out how to cross the street!

P1190585 P1190588 P1190599 P1190601 P1190605 P1190630P1190617 P1190622 P1190624 P1190625  P1190586 P1190582 P1190577 P1190576 P1190575

Gardens by the Bay, home of Singapore’s famous Super Trees, also gets a festive make-over. It was a very teddy Christmas, complete with fake snow.

P1190738 photo 1-11 P1190742 P1190720  P1190700P1190716 P1190717P1190704 P1190677 P1190670 P1190655 P1190652P1190683 P1190667 P1190664

There were attempts to “Keep the Christ in Christmas.”

photo 2-6 photo 4-3 photo 2-8 P1190631 P1190632 photo 2-1

And a few other random shots of Christmas around Singapore.

photo 2-2

This is actually a mostly “Muslim” hawker centre. Most of the stalls feature halal food and Malay food.

photo 1-3 photo 2-3 1525089_10100392500009365_70365170_n

The airport in Langkawi, Malaysia, which is a predominantly Muslim country.

photo 2-11 (2)

Ringing in the New Year with the Dutch…singing the Yon Yonson song? Whaaaaaa…..

photo 1-11Happy New Years Day from Singapore! Singapore is in the future when compared to a lot of places, so it’s the morning after for me. To ring in 2015, I went to a beach party with the following rules:

Beach partyTake note of the no swimming or selfie sticks ;). They actually had people guarding the ocean AND a fence around it. Safety first!

photo 2-11Actually, this was very smart. There were a lot of very drunk people there. Which leads me to my funny New Years Eve story. So we were hanging out and these guys come up to us, probably early 20s. One of them says, “I’m from the Netherlands, where are you from?” So I tell him the US, because in my experience there’s generally not much point telling non-Americans what state you’re from unless it’s California, Texas, Florida, or New York. But this guy asked me what state, so I say Wisconsin.

….

And he launches into the following song:

“My name is Yon Yonson

I come from Wisconsin,

I work in the lumberyards there.”

Now granted, it was a VERY slurred rendition of the song, but it was–in fact–the very song I grew up singing in elementary music class back home in good ol’ Wisconsin. My sister sings it to my niece all the time. But how? Why? Netherlands????

So I’m like, no way you sing that in the Netherlands.

So the guy calls his friend over and starts singing it and then his friend jumps in, independently verifying that yes, in FACT, they do randomly sing the Yon Yonson song in the Netherlands!

mind blowAnd then they kind of stumbled off before I could get to the root of the mystery, so now I may never know….

Here are the lyrics as I learned them in their entirety, if you’ve not had the pleasure:

My name is Yon Yonson,
I come from Wisconsin.
I work in a lumber yard there.
When I walk down the street,
All the people I meet
Say “Hello! Yon Yonson, hello!” (repeated again and again).
And a video if you really, REALLY want to enjoy it. It’s a different version though, not as good…. 😛
History note: I googled it to learn the origins, and apparently it was linked to the arrival of Swedish immigrants to the US (such as some of my ancestors). A lot of Scandinavians settled in the Midwest and at least in Wisconsin and Minnesota, lumber was a big industry around that time.
Oh, the world is a random place. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, safe, and amusing New Years Eve/Day!