Tag Archives: cultural differences

Independence, the International Way

It’s been years since I celebrated Independence Day. I’ve been getting my fireworks fixes on such odd dates as July 14th – Bastille Day in France – or December 8th – the pinnacle of the “Fete des Lumieres”  or annual magical festival of light in Lyon.

This year, the first time in years that I am States-side on the 4th of July, I went all the way.

Why settle for anything less than celebrating Independence Day on the National Mall, with fireworks exploding behind the Washington Monument.? Yes, it was crowded, yes, the crowd was sweaty, yes I was dehydrated, and yes I stood in line for about half an hour after the show ended before I could get into the metro with other sweaty and dehydrated people. And yes, I had a splitting headache when I got home.

But it was fun. There were explosions of color that my camera didn’t quite capture.

Then again, I was actually watching the fireworks, not commenting on their chemical components like the guys next to me, or better yet, being too busy immortalizing the scene to actually enjoy it, like the people in front of me:

The fireworks were the fitting end to a very long and good day. After a leisurely lunch with a new Polish-American friend, I had headed into town for my first DC party. I wandered into a rowhouse looking for another friend, hostess of the party, only to find her standing on a stool mixing a gigantic vat of sangria.

Things only got better.

I somewhat reeled in shock when I saw the assorted company. Even working in an international organization for over 2 years, I had never seen such a diverse gathering of people. Over the next few hours, I was counseled on the difference between Farsi and Arabic by a very handsome young Iraqi, watched two Columbians salsa it out around the dining room table, talked about international education with another Columbian girl with the most charming British accent ever, listened to a Turkish man spin tales about intercontinental Istanbul, and harmoniously divvied up the rest of the barbequed food with a lovely Taiwanese lady.

It was fun, loud, colorful, international,  friendly and laid-back – the best of America in one evening.

Maybe what I am looking for, the adrenaline of cultural exchanges and often cultural shock, the excitement of discovering how differently people live their lives, the sudden realization that underneath it all, we are all similar – maybe I don’t have to go into exile to find all of this?

That’s a new thought.