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On Being American

by Tara

When we went downstairs for breakfast there was an American couple sitting down already having some eggs and toast. Their names were Nikolai and Ashley, and they were from San Diego, on their honeymoon driving through Ireland and the UK. We instantly felt comfortable with them. Within minutes we were all laughing, teasing each other and having a wonderful time. Nikolai, a mechanical engineer who builds sling shots for airplanes (or something like that) quickly started talking about geeky things with Tyler, while the exhuberant Ashley (a first grade teacher) and I laughed and laughed, sharing stories from our travels.

I said to hell with poetry, historical significance, and some (very famous and important) dead guy's old house. Instead, I bought a half-gallon of ice cream.

As much as I love experiencing different countries and ways of life, there is a sense of relief that comes when you meet like-minded people who share your cultural background. You can relax and be yourself. Being together is like coming home, though your real home is far away. I sometimes tend to overly-idealise other cultures while berating my own, but during our brief time with Nicolai and Ashley I felt distinctly proud and comfortable being an American. Being able to laugh and enjoy ourselves without worrying too much about rules, politeness, or convention felt immensely refreshing.

Ashley and Nikolai were definitely the highlight of our day. Tyler and I wished we could have spent more time with them, but they were checking out of the B&B to go hiking, and Tyler had work to do. He planted himself in front of the computer, and I spent the day reading my book. It was nice to be cozied up inside and I was glad we weren't in a super touristy town because I might have felt guilty for not seeing all the sights. I almost went to Wordsworth's House, but then decided against it in order to do something particularly American. I said to hell with poetry, historical significance, and some (very famous and important) dead guy's old house. Instead, I bought a half-gallon of ice cream.

When I came home with the chocolate-rippled goodness, Tyler's eyes nearly popped out of his head. He was endlessly grateful as he inhaled his half of the tub. I ate most of my half (the melty parts--my favorite) and put the rest in the freezer for later. It was the first 'American' sized serving of ice cream we've had since we left and it was incredibly good.

The whole experience reminded me of a conversation I had with young Jenny, a girl we met in Scotland at Beecraigs campground. Standing in the women's bathroom, our chat went as follows:

Jenny Is America cool?
Me Well, I guess that depends on what you think is cool!
Jenny Well… Is it true… that you have very large cookies in America?
Me Well Jenny, I guess America IS cool, because yes, we have very, very large cookies.

We may not have done much (well, Tyler worked a lot), but the day was definitely a success.

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I won't tell dad you skipped Wordsworth's house. :) Was it Rydal Mount? The grounds there are lovely (daffodils and what not, though, probably not anymore). Or was it Dove Cottage? I guess I missed which town you are in. If you go through Grassmere, there's the absolute best gingerbread there, though you may have had it yourself when we went there on our trip. ~ Julia
Posted by Julia on April 25th, 2009 at 6:49 PM
Julia-- yeah, don't tell Jim! We were in Cockermouth, and it was Wordsworth's childhood home, I believe. It wasn't nearly as quaint or beautiful (from the outside) as the one we visited on our trip (right by the gingerbread bakery!), so I didn't feel TOO bad about skipping it. Did we visit Rydal Mount or Dove Cottage on our trip?
Posted by Tara on April 27th, 2009 at 7:35 AM