Yesterday I called the States to settle a Comcast bill. The guy I was on the phone with asked where I was.
“Brazil, huh?” he said. “How are things over there?”
I answered him and told him things were nice and it was pretty and all that. Blah, blah, blah…the kind of answer I give to people I know don’t really care what I’m saying.
I thought it was funny that he said “over there” like Brazil is kind of nearby, or at least on the same latitude as Connecticut. It didn’t occur to me that he might not even know where in the world Brazil is until I told him it was springtime here.
“Oh! It’s springtime for you guys there?!” and he chuckled with a kind of fascination. “It’s fall for us here. Getting cold!”
“Yeah, I know,” I replied.
“Is it hot there?”
“No, it’s just coming out of winter so it’s still a little cold here. Not too bad, but it’s chilly.”
“Wow,” he said again. “Springtime.”
I think for a lot of Americans, any other country besides Canada or Mexico is “over there,” in this kind of nebulous place where there are “foreign” languages and “foreign” people. I think a lot of Americans don’t care about where other places are in the world and what goes on in those other places, unless they’re global hot spots–Iraq, for instance because of the war, or Japan a few years ago because of the Olympics. But for the quieter places on the globe, the ones without currently volatile relationships with the US–Laos, Brazil, New Zealand, any number of countries, really–I think many Americans can’t point their fingers to the countries’ locations on the map. General areas, maybe, circling their finger around South East Asia or kind of in the area of the South Pacific or kind of around–is it still called USSR?–you know, kind of in this area kind of right around here.
But I’m pointing the finger at myself, too, you know, not just at the masses of Americans who think Brazil is “over there.” I’m guilty of not knowing where things are. But being here has helped jostle me out of my US-centric thinking and US-centric perspective.