She said, “Oh, come on, you know!” I didn’t want to make her feel bad, but I honestly didn’t know. When you leave America and go overseas for an extended period of time, time goes on for you and for America. When you come back, you are changed and America has changed. Since I first went overseas when I was four years old and have lived in eight different countries, this kind of thing has been happening all my life. I have a lot of catch up to do every time I come back to America. I learned to cope with people not quite understanding a long time ago.
When I was a child, I actually became English because I had more contact with the English than anyone else. When I was about 12 years old, and we came back to America, teachers and others would talk to me as if I were exactly like all the other American kids, but I knew that even though they couldn’t tell from looking at me, on the inside, I was quite different. My kids still tease me because ever so often, they hear me say something without thinking, and they remind me that the British say it that way, but not the Americans. England has stayed with me my whole life. I didn’t consciously become English, but I was a child, and I became like people around me.
When we came back from Romania, there were several strange things that happened. We turned the television on to see what was on, and Jerry Springer was on. It was a huge shock! I thought, “Oh no! What has happened to America while we were gone?”
After that, I was at the state university where I was hired teaching essay writing. I brought an article that had been in the school news paper about gays wanting the university to consider their live in partner as their husband and wife, and afford them all the rights of married people. Before I left America, being gay just wasn’t talked about, and no one would every come right out and think that a gay partner was like a husband or a wife. I felt like it was silly to think that a gay partner was actually a husband or a wife because everyone knew that husbands were men and wives were women and they had taken vows to stay together until they died. It had been that way since the dawn of time. However, when I read the article and discussed it with the students, I was completely shocked by their attitudes about gays.
Things certainly had changed! The students got radical about thinking the gay people’s partners should be granted the rights that a husband or wife should be granted. However, when I left America, gays were not even on TV. When my boss heard about how crazy the students got during that class period, she said, “Good job! You really got their brains working!” I was trying to get their brains working, but I didn’t realize I would get the attitudes that I had gotten from them. America had really changed!
This time, I have been in Korea for 14 years, and I am back. I have already been shocked by seeing marijuana stores. Today, I felt silly and didn’t want the lady talking to me to feel silly, and I finally made her laugh about it.
We got ready to check out at the General Dollar store today, and went to the checkout stand. The lady working at the store was close to the checkout stand, but she told us to go to the other one. She said, “Go down there. I have left the light on for you!” I didn’t see a light, but okay, we went to the other check out stand. She looked at me smiling with some of her black teeth that seem to be more prevalent now among Americans than when I left. She point at my daughter and said, “I know she didn’t get it, but I know you did!” I was still confused. I felt bad because I didn’t get it. She said with a very southern accent emphasizing the ‘o’, “You know! Tom Bodeck!” All I could think was, “Who is Tom Bodeck?” I shook my head “no.” She said, “Come on! The Hotel 6 commercial! He always said, ‘I left the light on for you!'”
I felt bad because I have never seen the commercial. I said, “I’m sorry.” A lady came up behind me that had even blacker teeth than the first one and said, “She may not know what you are talking about, but I do!” I said, “I really am sorry. I have been in Korea for the past 14 years.” She said, “Its a really old commercial!” I had to do something to make her feel better. I said, “Oh, you put up the American flag for us!” She smiled big and appreciated what I said. Everyone laughed, and the tension was broken. I know I am odd again.
Yes, I know that I can be very strange to many Americans, but they seem strange to me too. I am worried that all these people with black teeth who never had them before have taken some terrible drugs or something. I have a cousin in southeastern Oklahoma who has black teeth and his wife is completely toothless in the front. I learned that he was smoking marijuana, and I have wondered if they do some other drugs that caused their teeth to go bad. I am sorry for what many Americans have become over the years. My cousin used to be very good looking, but if he hadn’t identified himself, I wouldn’t have recognized him at all. People change as they get older, but not as much as he has changed. I have changed, and America has changed again. I will have to have time to get adjusted and learn to get the American way of thinking and inside jokes again.