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.

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“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.

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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…. πŸ˜›
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!

Wait….there’s no meat in it? On being the token Yank: Christmas Edition

So I’m an American living in Singapore. Have been for the past year and a half-ish.

10256652_10100472610562175_862716297238446126_oI haven’t encountered many Americans while living the expat life; plenty of Brits and Aussies though. So my husband and I actually hang out with a lot of English people, which is pretty awesome. Since we’re living in a foreign Asian country, that makes us all relatively similar. Kind of weird, right? And since we’ve been friends for quite a while now, a lot of the usual random questions we’ve had about each others’ countries have been covered. (One of their questions: do you really have yellow school buses? One of our questions: how do you have so many accents on such a small island?) We’ve gone through the usual vocabulary differences and I’ve added some surprising words to my British English lexicon, which is huge!!! (Aubergine=egg plant, that one that surprised me recently)

I can proudly say I can recognize the difference between the slightly north of middle all the way to a Northern English accent from a Southern English accent and a posh accent. …And now when talking to new English people, I categorize their accents by comparing them to my friends, lol. I.e. Oh, they sound like Bob, they must be from around Manchester. Or Game of Thrones. I use that, too πŸ˜›

Anyway, we were recently at a friend’s Christmas party sipping some mulled wine (which was awesome) when my friend brought around a plate of mince pies (which I also know to be minceMEAT pies).

1-1259080723rq3B(not my photo)

Important side note, American friends: mince is used in place of ground, so like minced beef instead of ground beef, which added to my presumed meat connotation in connection to mince, as that’s what they call it in Singapore, too). My husband loves meat pies, so he was quite excited (see, not just me!).

So we took a bite…

eatingAnd there was dried fruit in it.

It was, what we polite Midwesterners would say, interesting…. It tasted kind of sweet and sour and dry and fruity I guess? No meat. The flavor kind of reminded me of maybe a fruit cake? Anyway, we shared our experience with some of our other English friends, and they thought it was pretty amusing. Apparently there is a little bit of beef suet (fat) in it though, so there’s that. I looked up the recipe. Dangggg those things are hard to make! Recipe calls for like 20 ingredients that are minced then left to sit for at least 3 days! I have a whole new appreciation for mince pies now.

After I wrapped my brain around it, I did like it though πŸ˜€ My husband, not so much. Shhhhh don’t tell my friend! Obviously, every culture has their own unique holiday foods with which they have strong, fond associations. Us Americans, we have pumpkin pie πŸ˜›

Have you ever had any interesting holiday food experiences?

Happy Thanksgiving from Singapore!

gif thanksHey America, hope you all have a great Thanksgiving! Those of you who don’t work in retail, enjoy your day off. Those of you who do work in retail and have Black Friday creeping into your Thanksgiving, I’m sorry. I truly am. I worked at Wal-Mart for three years. I’ve lived it. Oh, and Canada, I’m so sorry I forgot yours; my mom’s Canadian, so I even know it’s in early October. And if you’re not American or Canadian and receiving my belated “Happy Thanksgiving,” happy…um…almost December.

I got a reminder this week of my token-ness (i.e. being a token Yank that is). I was at a packed comedy club with my English friends. It was a diverse crowd. The MC did the whole, “Let me see where all the Singaporeans are!” Tons of cheers. “Indians!” Tons of cheers. “UK friends!” My whole table and some more. “French people!” Even they had a hearty cheer. He didn’t ask where all his Aussies were because I’m sure there was a ton of ’em πŸ˜› Then came….

“The Americans!”

Crickets. Then my lowly “Wooo!” fist raised. LOL. Only one in a crowd of probably 200. To be fair, there was a lone German guy, too, and he and a Singaporean got to be the butt of a lot of jokes. I was actually surprised the US didn’t get picked on. There’s just so much ammo….

Anyway, Thanksgiving. Second most (North) American holiday behind 4th of July. I have to say, my non-American friends are generally pretty fascinated by Thanksgiving, both the food we eat and its purpose. “Why do you eat turkey? It’s stringy and dry,” I was asked at the previously-mentioned comedy club night.

It got me reflecting on what my family does for Thanksgiving–spend a lot of time prepping and eating food, watching football (oh, crap I need to set my fantasy football line-up!), maybe going out to a movie, planning out big Black Friday shopping spree, having a few drinks, maybe playing some games. It’s all about bringing family together, that’s the essence of Thanksgiving to me. Let’s just not get into the historical significance of it… Or kids dressing up in Native American headdresses at school….

Anyway. It’s always hard being on the opposite side of the world from your family, particularly on holidays. Particularly Thanksgiving/Christmas. Miss my family tons. But my husband and I will be celebrating Thanksgiving with a bunch of his other American co-workers on Saturday, potluck style. Last year, not gonna lie, we had better food at this Thanksgiving than at my parents (SORRY Mom and Dad, it was just more variety! :P).

So friends, I have two questions for you today! Feel free to answer one, both, or none πŸ˜›

1. Even if you’re not American. What are you thankful for? (For the record, no my family did not sit around the turkey and do this :P). Me personally, it’s having this last year and a half to focus almost exclusively on my writing. I have a fantastic husband!

2. If you were cursed and could pick only ONE Thanksgiving dish to eat, what would it be? (non-American friends, substitute Christmas for Thanksgiving πŸ˜› Me? Not going to lie, it’d probably just be turkey. I mean you just can’t even have Thanksgiving without it.

On being the token yank: More American than apple pie

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So I’ve been waiting all year for the item featured below to reappear in Cold Storage, a grocery store that carries lots of Western food. Then found out that select ones have had it all along, haha. Anyway, it FINALLY happened.

photo-15I was so, so excited. The price was a bit scary–like $6 a can. My lovely little sister just had to point out that she bought a can for $.88…. Us expats always get excited when our things randomly appear in stores. Besides canned pumpkin, my most recent happy discovery was Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.

So I’ve been baking lots of pumpkin things lol.

photo-16 (2)(Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. The one English friend who had the privaledge of trying them was a bit surprised by the mix of ginger and chocolate but liked it with “a bit of tea.”)

Non-American friends, the traditional way my family prepares it is to buy a can of pureed pumpkin, mix in two eggs, sugar, clove, ginger, cinnamon, and condensed milk, then pour it into a pie crust. Super easy. I’ve never made the pumpkin part from an actual pumpkin, but I’ve heard it takes, um, skill. You use a pie pumpkin, which is smaller than the kind we Muricans like to carve.

969158_10100356824633105_1454008998_n(No, I did not carve this one in Singapore. Not only would it rot in like three hours, carving pumpkins cost more than $20 last year…)

(North) American friends, you may not realize this, but we are pretty much the only ones that eat pumpkin pie or pumpkin desserts really. Non-Americans have heard of pumpkin pie in relation to Thanksgiving, a few may have tried it, but it’s not really a thing outside the US. One of my American expat friends used to live in London and she had a really tough time even finding pumpkin pie mix. To get to the bottom of North America’s general ownership of all things pumpkin, I googled “why do Americans eat pumpkin pie”. Apparently pumpkin is native to North America. Obviously, they finish growing around October/harvest time, which is why we eat these pies in the fall/winter. (Perhaps while watching NFL football haha) It didn’t become associated with Thanksgiving until the 1800’s.

So yesterday I made a pumpkin pie for my British friends. I even went out and bought the canned spray whip cream stuff–“dessert topping” with Chinese writing all over it but allegedly made in the good ol’ USA. It tasted fine, despite the general sketchiness of the whole thing.

So back to my friends. Once they figured out how to operate the “dessert topping” can (which apparently has a different spraying mechanism than in the UK), the pumpkin pie was a big hit. Or at least they said it was to make me feel good, lol. One friend suggested having it with a bit of tea (again) πŸ˜›

Bonus additional “more American than apple pie” food item: S’Mores. Yup. American. Made those for a few of my friends, too. They did not approve of using Hershey’s chocolate, but really it’s the only one that works. You have to have thin chocolate! So I think the pumpkin pie was better received.

…and all my friends back home are posting pictures of their seasonal pumpkin ales and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Jealous. We Americans love our pumpkin.

So pumpkin pie, more American than apple pie because apples grow e’erwhere. Pumpkins are our thang. :P.