J’ai un reve americaine

It’s been a pretty challenging, and yet fulfilling semester. I’ve always believed that the purpose of college is not to be a trade school. It’s an educational experience which opens the mind and helps one interconnect concepts. The “bigger picture” emerges, encompassing the whole of human achievement: history, language, art, music, science, math.

Fate rewarded me with a metaphorical finger up its nose: eight papers since the end of spring break, in addition to extensive daily reading and writing. Ah, liberal arts degrees.

Things have steadily improved as I finish off assignments. The only thing better than finishing off one more paper, is the news I got last week.

“I have a surprise,” my Personal Francophone wrote me. “I’ll tell you on Skype later.”

“So,” I said, once we had connected over the Magical Webcams of Technology and Happiness, “what’s this surprise?”

“I bought them,” he said.

“You bought what?” I asked. I suspected, of course, but I was never that kid who unwrapped the Christmas gifts secretly and shamefully in the bottom of Mom’s closet on December 20.

“Plane tickets!” he exclaimed happily.

Cue fireworks. And brass bands. And throwers of flaming batons.

On the afternoon of June 19, I will be the happiest girl in the Universe.

The only thing is, how do I give him this?

I love this country. I am the quintessential believer in the American dream.

I believe in independence. In self-reliance. In earning one’s way.

I have been blessed enough to see more than half of our fifty states, and to understand and appreciate each of their different cultures and traditions. To envision how it all fits into the American whole. Who we are as a people. How we have emerged culturally, linguistically, socially, historically to where we are now. From small towns to huge sprawling metropolises, across the vast expanse of our nation, we are still one people, distinguished by our optimism and pride.

How do you give that to a non-American? Belgium has its own history of colonization and control, independence and evolution, which have made its people emerge into confidence and pride in their nation.

Belgians have fought their way into independence from France, from Holland, from Germany, and they are justly proud of these accomplishments, and patriotic with it. But at the same time, its citizens are willing to accept a large amount of government control and support which many Americans would disdain.

How does one open someone else to experience America? How can one really get across the idea of the original American dream: house, home, family and livelihood forged with the sweat of one’s brow and the work of one’s hands? How that has shaped our traditions, our national mindset. Who we are.

Any ideas?

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Filed under US/Belgium 2011-2012

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