As we gazed across the bay to the beautifully lit city of Hong Kong, I couldn’t help but notice the young man’s shoes as he walked in front of us. They weren’t the typical high-price Faragamo’s that are becoming normal in the ultra-affluent Hong Kong, instead they were simple canvas shoes decorated on the top with the US flag.
It wasn’t the first time either. Throughout Southeast Asia and continuing through Asia, Europe, and Africa the US flag continued to be a favorite adornment of local outfits. As if we even needed the reminder of the home we left eight months ago, these simple occurrences made us even more homesick. Every time we heard a country, hip hop, or rap song from an artist from the US, it had the same impact.
I think I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve said “we hit the birth jackpot” by being born in the US.
What would’ve happened if we were born in the high mountains of Laos where the only mode of transportation beyond our small wooden shack was the mighty Mekong river that hasn’t seen much change in the area in the previous millenniums. Or what if I was born in the slums of India where the best of luck means you were born into a family who didn’t cripple you as that would make you a better beggar. Or the unforgiving country of Cambodia that had 1/3rd of its population wiped out forty years ago when the evil dictator Pol Pot decided to change the make up of the country.
What if I was born into a society where my gender played the most important role in deciding the outcome of my life – whether I deserved the respect of the culture or even the respect of the opposite sex. What if I was a woman in India who feared the machismo culture not because it put her chances of success at risk, but more importantly put her chances of safety at risk.
We have seriously hit the birth jackpot.
We don’t have to worry about whether our next meal will be the one that’s gives us deadly food poisoning or what will happen to us if we decide to drink the unsafe tap water – that’s if we’re lucky enough to have running water and a next meal.
We all have access to a pretty good level of public education that helps us break out of the caste systems most of the world is stuck in because parents can’t provide a better lives for their kids since they can’t get them educated.
Simple injuries and sicknesses don’t put our lives at risk like they would in some other countries where access to healthcare is minimal. We don’t have to fear the next mosquito bite will lead to us coming down with Malaria or Dengue Fever.
However, it’s not all rosy.
We also experienced many things in other countries that we are lacking in the US – from the incredible traditions of Bali where the family structure is put ahead of everything else, to the villages in Nepal that have communal work days where everyone pitches in to clean up the small rock walking paths that acts as the main entrance and exits to their tiny villages. In Israel we experienced Shabbat (Sabath) where an entire night and day each week are dedicated to rest and even more importantly – family.
In the end, I guess you love a country like you love your family. You know they’re not perfect, but you love them even more because of it. There may be other countries or families that do things better, but you love the one you have – and I think we have a lot in the US.