Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Defining "My People"

So, I miss my people. The people of mine who I miss the most-- sometimes more, sometimes a lot more and sometimes not quite so much more, but whom I always feel the lack of--are my family. Those people really belong to me and should live closer.

But there are other people I feel rather possessive of. Millions of them. I will explain.

As I put my carry-on in the overhead compartment of a plane that will cross the Atlantic to my Patria, I hear numerous loud conversations going on. This guy is telling his neighbor about a show he saw in Las Vegas, that lady is explaining to a man about a rude person she met while on vacation. Over there a man is laughing boisterously as he tells a story about a family member. It's a bit of an overload for me. I didn't really want or need to hear any of that. It almost seems rude to bombard strangers with personal stories, loudly told, and yet I sit down, listen, and smile broadly. I love these people. They are Americans.
***
As we unload our luggage in a hotel parking lot two young men come walking from the other end of the lot. When they are still quite far away I tell Ev, "those guys are Americans". I can tell because of how they look and. . . seem. They are casually dressed and seem happy and laid back. I cannot fully describe it. Soon we see they are coming toward us, and that they are former missionaries back in Poland for a visit. They are Americans.
***
Walking down the crowded streets of beautiful Krakow I come face to face with a woman and we do the side-to-side trying-to-get-out-of-each-other's-way dance. She makes eye contact, smiles and then we pass each other, without speaking a word. I lean to Greg and we say at the same time, "that was an American".
***
I meet people and within the first few sentences I speak to them I, out of habit, utilize verbal irony. They laugh, or smile or keep a straight face and respond with irony as well. They are Americans.
***
We've had mission presidents' wives from South Africa and then Denmark for the last six years. (I love and admire them both). But now we have a new one and after our first few minutes of conversation I feel like we've been friends for years. She is an American.
***
I get these people and they get me. That (obviously) makes them mine.

19 comments:

Barbaloot said...

I never really thought of being able to identify Americans so quickly---although I definitely have done so regarding Europeans:)

JustRandi said...

That's so funny. It never occurred to me that you could do that with Americans, though it seems pretty easy to tell if people are foreign when we're out here.
Sometimes I'm a little dense.

I'm so glad you have a new friend for awhile! Does she speak Polish?

Nance said...

I can't imagine how homesick you must get at times, not just for your family, but for your people. I did a semester in London and my small group of friends was always trying to be very quiet and not draw attention to ourselves as Americans while we were in the Tube. We could easily pick out the other Americans. And here, just by the way a person dresses I can tell they are foreign. Even if they are dressed super cool, Europeans just dress differently.

Kazzy said...

I'll bet you do feel an immediate kinship with your people. You are amazing to live in a faraway place like you do with no complaining here on your blog. If anything, I appreciate the love and respect you show to your new country. It is admirable.

Lara said...

Once, this lady came to our Sacrament meeting and I KNEW she was Romanian. But it seemed crazy that she would be. But she was. There's just something.

So are your kids as quick to identify Americans as you are?

Kimberly said...

I can just imagine that feeling of home being transported to you in the form of people, Americans, coming into your sphere there.

When I lived in Oregon it was always so amazing to meet someone who was Canadian. I couldn`t pick them out, of course, the differences aren`t great enough, but once we made the connection I felt like I should have known...

Alison Wonderland said...

Maybe it's because I'm American, but I love you.

Carolyn V. said...

That is so sweet Lisa! Thanks for such an uplifting post today. =)

gramalee said...

Nice! xo

Erin said...

I love this post. I could point out the Americans when I was in Paris visiting too (and not just because they were wearing white socks and tennis shoes...).

Heather said...

I often see people who I think are Russian, and then try to talk myself out of it, until I find out that they really are.
I think I've mentioned before that before we got married, we talked about living in Ukraine. You write about the kind of things I only imagined I would experience, or did experience while I was in Ukraine. Do you ever feel like being obnoxious in public, just because you are American? I tried so hard not to, both when I was in Ukraine and Korea, but I think if I lived abroad for years it might be refreshing to be a little obnoxious once in a while.

Loralee and the gang... said...

I think that is so cool, to immediately know when someone is from home! I love that!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

No matter how much you travel and how much you love it, your heart is always drawn to "home" and things and people connected to there. And it doesn't matter how different people are from you, when they're from home, they feel kind of the same.

Moody said...

I wish I had more worldly experience to really know what you're seeing that's different about us...but I AM proud to be "one of your people"!

myimaginaryblog said...

My very-full flight home from my mission in Belgium and France got canceled, and although all of us passengers were in the same boat (or, er, same lack of a plane) a few American women pushed their way to the front at the ticket counter and loudly demanded they be put on a new flight right away. I was so embarrassed for them, and for myself as a fellow American.

Then I got back to Utah, and checkout clerks smiled openly at me and helped me promptly and cheerfully, and the teens all were clean and shiny and involved in fun, wholesome activities. And it was good to be home.

I once saw Judith Martin (Miss Manners) on Book TV talking about her (at the time) latest book which was about American manners, and I've been meaning to buy the book ever since. (Maybe I'll go put it in my Amazon cart when I finish writing this comment.) She said that although she'd never imagined she'd be defending American manners, our ways of doing things do have solid reasons behind thme: for example, since Americans are so transient, we have to be able to make friends quickly, keep long distance friendships even with minimal contact, and pick back up where we left off when reunited. When I lived in Amman, Jordan, I felt like I could never live up to the amount of time and the intensity of involvement that friendships there required.

myimaginaryblog said...

P.S. Regarding Lara's comment of just knowing someone was Romanian: Once when I worked at the Orem library, a man came in wanting a library card, but he didn't have any proof he lived in Orem or Provo, which is the ONE thing we do insist on to give out library cards. Even after I explained that, he continued persisting, in a pleasant and jovial but very insistent way; he was just sure there was some loophole and I could give him a card if I wanted to. I couldn't help myself; I asked, "Are you from Congo?" And he was. (I'd met lots of people from Congo while on my mission in Belgium.)

Annette Lyon said...

My heart goes out to you--you've made a big sacrifice.

earlfam said...

You're getting another one!! Last night at the reception for my in-laws (that I told you about) one of my very favorite people in the whole world told me that she and her husband are on their way to Poland too. You've probably even heard that they will be there in 3 weeks or so and I'm sure the Nielsens have already told you how great they are. It's all true, you're going to love Nola!

Heidi said...

I just couldn't do what you do. You're my hero.