“So what do you think of the U.S.?”
This bomb has been dropped on me several times. Given that I have experienced quite a bit of cultural shock, there is a wide spectrum of memories around which I can form my opinion about the tiny bit of the U.S. I have seen. Looking at the clock, I usually have to construct my answer in one of three ways:
“Oh, it’s awesome! Gotta go. Late for class.” I often use this reply with people who I assume are looking for an ego boost and will probably pull out a shotgun and shoot me if I got critical.
“Well… um…” I usually use this reply with people I see myself building a positive relationship with. Often having to navigate through several topics with great care and delicacy, this reply takes several minutes and involves excessive beating around the bush.
“To be honest…” I end up using this line with people I know are looking purely for an alien’s honest perspective.
Hear me out completely before you decide to write angry letters passionately to the editor lobbying to get me fired, because this is a delicate topic to address. Nevertheless, given how often this question gets asked, I believe it is an important topic to address. And keep in mind that I am currently still experiencing cultural shock to some extent.
If I had to choose one word to describe the little bit of the U.S. I have seen, I would use the word “Absurd.” Note that this is neither good nor bad. I use the word absurd in a purely neutral tone. Let me explain and desperately defend myself with an example. I was at Cocoa Dolce a few months ago when I noticed a pack of bacon-flavored chocolate on the shelf. I thought it was the most preposterous of things. I have never had it myself, so I do not know what it tastes like. However, people who have had it are all praises for it.
Is it absurd to combine bacon and chocolate, two flavors I would never talk about in the same sentence? Yes. However, is it a good thing or bad? It’s neither, for its absurdity is a pure expression of uncontrolled, untamed freedom.
Or now that I think about it, I could have just talked about the Harlem Shake. Absurd.
The U.S. has been a gigantic buffet that feeds my curiosity day in and day out, right from the very first time I discovered a gun magazine carelessly lying around on one of the shelves at Wal-Mart. My friend and I fled from the scene like we had discovered Tom Riddle’s high school diary.
At other times, I have literally been alarmed by the most mundane practices out here. To quote one, I would point out the wastage. The excessive use of paper and plastic everywhere alarmed me the very first time I entered the student center. The decent-sized list of the absurdities I have encountered goes on. Since the list includes delicate issues, like religion, I shall address them in subsequent columns.
For now, I am going to leave you with this. I do not debate the several adjectives, most in their superlatives, that are associated with the U.S. It is a great nation, no doubt. I find it absurd, nevertheless.