Eye of the Chicken
A journal of Harbin, China

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It's less than a month until I go home.

I'm pretty stunned by that realization, actually. I'm wondering how I'm going to feel when I get there, what I'll notice, what will be different or difficult or strange. There will be something, I know; I just don't know what it will be.

But I can tell you one thing I've noticed this past week: Americans like to complain a lot. Don't get me wrong - the people who are here with me are champs, every one of them, and I couldn't be with a group of better teachers. I'm not knocking them personally at all. And I include myself in the group of Americans who complain, because I know I do it, too.

I think that as a nation, we're pretty accustomed to having what we want when we want it. The upside of the "American spirit," as it were, is that we're not afraid to take risks, to go out on a limb, to try things. We'll put ourselves out there. And if things are not to our liking, we change them. (That's a function of being relatively rich compared to the rest of the world, too, I'm sure.)

The flip side of that is that we do not suffer in silence. If something is lacking, we do not easily make do or do without.

I wonder whether, to the rest of the world, we don't seem to be just a bit . . . spoiled. (I have very little doubt that if the rest of the world were in our shoes, they would behave the same way, by the way. Nonetheless . . . )

And I wonder how Europeans and Canadians and Australians and other first-world types seem, not just how Americans seem.

I wonder if this is a gulf that we can ever cross, this difference in expectations between the first world and the rest of it.

Anyway. Just a late-night thought. I better get to sleep, because tomorrow is coming quickly whether I'm ready for it or not . . . and I'm not, alas . . .

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