It’s just Geography

Hey folks.  Its been a while since I’ve written anything.  Could tell you all the reasons why, but it would only seem like whining.  I’d rather write about what has been on the news and on my mind.

The Snowden scandal is a huge deal here in Germany, and honestly my first reaction was, “Are people actually surprised by this? Not saying it’s ok, I’m just surprised that people are surprised”.  And then I remember the movie ‘The Lives of Others’.  For those of you who have not seen it, it is a must.  It is a German movie, but you have English subtitles and the storyline is very moving.  Briefly, the movie takes place in old East Germany under Soviet ‘influence’ where government spying was so common it was assumed.  This movie brings home the very true reality of the lives of those living in East Germany who were under constant suspicion and scrutiny, and I think it can provide some perspective for why the Snowden leaks is such a huge deal here.

Cover of "The Lives of Others"

Cover of The Lives of Others

The Snowden affair has dragged on and on, and recently became more personal.  Bolivia’s president had a travel fiasco returning from Russia, and all due to the U.S. government being suspicious that he was smuggling Snowden on his presidential plane. Now Bolivia’s president is threatening to expell the U.S. Embassy’s in Bolivia.

Out here in the rest of the world, the U.S. is widely regarded with a convoluded mix of emotions ranging from curiosity, to contempt.  I have done my best to dispell the myth that all American’s are like what you see on today’s reality TV shows; with huge luxurious vehicles, million dollar rings, carelessness for the environment, and overall inflated self importance.  Aside from the occasional American stereotyping,  I am impressed with how many people here in Europe know so much about current events happening in the U.S. but it also has me feeling ignorant.  I don’t remember regular TV news outlets back home doing anything more than regional or nation-wide coverage, yet most nights on the television or the radio here I am hearing things about the United States.  People of other countries know things about my own, and yet I  cannot engage in a dialogue about theirs.  The world is watching the U.S.  and I am thinking how self-interested we are.  But wait, is that really the problem?  Or is it that we are such a large nation, with so many issues, that it is hard to focus anywhere else?  Regardless of the answer to those questions, it is easier here to be ‘in the know’ about what is happening in the world and I am fighting that ignorant feeling.

Most people here speak many languages, at least two, a lot of them more, and here I am 30 years old with my one language, struggling to learn another.  Talk about feeling sheepish. Photo by Barry Harter, USDA/ARS And then I think, go back to geography.  Here in Europe, you can drive a car for 3 hours and arrive in another country of another language.  Talk about motivation to learn another lingo!  In the U.S. you literally can drive for days and maybe run into a different accent, but still its an English speaking one.  People live their whole lives in the U.S. without ever crossing a foreign border.  Do I wish I hadn’t slept through Spanish class in high school and completely avoided it in college? Yes.  Am I doing something about it now? Yes.  But that is because of my geography.  I live in Deutschland: must learn Deutsch.  Marrying a Bolivian: must learn Spanish.  But if those two huge things didn’t occur it is unlikley that I would be learning either…?

Deutsch lektion für heute:

Seine gerechte Geografie = It’s just geography 🙂

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3 responses to “It’s just Geography

  1. If I’s not too much of German Rechthaberei (cantankerousness) I would rather translate “It’s just geography” into “Es ist nur Geografie”.
    (“just” as an adverb translates differently to the adjective)
    As to your other remarks on the differences of seeing the world outside our own frontiers I’m absolutely with you. We all have to learn to respect each others ways of living and thinking in a world that is becoming more globalized than it has been in the past.

    • Thanks for the correction on my translation! That was written long before my German speaking ability could interpret things without google….yikes! I a, sure there are other errors as well. Interesting how as you begin to really understand another language you discover the difference between translating and intepreting, don’t you think?! Thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: Digital Decisions | pisceschronicles·

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