Today, I have the privilege of hosting my good Australian friend Andrew Cameron on the Compelling Parade blog. Andrew lives here in northeast Ohio where he works for Ambassadors in Sport. I have been pressuring him to write more and challenged him to send me a guest post. This is what he sent, and here is his blogging debut…
I found out I was an alien at 22 years old.
They were on to me straight away.
I was made to stand in a separate line, subjected to all manner of questioning, fingerprinted and photographed. In my confusion and fatigue due to the long journey I had just completed, I entered a Japanese greeting (“ohayoo”) in the “State” field of my arrival card. Far from endearing me to my new inquisitors, they just appeared to become more annoyed.
In nine years of traveling to and from the USA, I have never become comfortable with my status as an “alien” here. I received a boost last year – I am now a “resident alien” – but even my permanent resident card has an expiry date on it. There may be many types of aliens out there but there is only one type of non-alien: the citizen.
There are aliens in the Bible too.
In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter addresses the believers as “aliens (i.e. resident aliens) and strangers (i.e. temporary residents) in the world.” A similar theme is taken up in Hebrews 11:13, where the writer commends the heroes of the faith because they “admitted that they were foreigners (i.e. “visitors”) and strangers (i.e. temporary residents) on earth.”
So how do aliens live? As a resident alien in the USA, here are some thoughts:
- They adjust their speech enough to be understood but not enough to be indistinguishable from the “citizens” around them. For example, I now say “gas” instead of “petrol” and “peppers” instead of “capsicum”, but I refuse to arbitrarily lengthen my vowels or pronounce my “R’s” like a pirate (or pronounce them at all, actually, being Australian). I want people to understand what I’m saying but I’m not trying to hide that I’m not American.
- They look to develop common interests and shared passions with the “citizens”, while staying true to who they are. For example, I’m a football (soccer) guy but I’ve learnt to follow the NFL, MLB and NBA as well, and I filled out my March Madness bracket this year just like the next guy… unless the next guy is Barack Obama or LeBron James, in which case I filled out my bracket better (boom! thank you celebrity brackets on ESPN). However, I am incapable of being interested in the NHL and I am yet to be convinced Lacrosse is a real sport. Similarly, I have embraced the pulled-pork sandwich but I will never, I repeat never, eat a pickle. It’s just plain wrong.
- They modify some behaviours to adapt to the culture, but intentionally retain others that express where they come from. For example, I will happily take advantage of drive-through ATM’s and Pharmacies (who wouldn’t?) but I will also cherish an active, and occasionally inconvenient, lifestyle; I will embrace the respect shown to elders but not the worship of celebrity; I will value and take pride in my work but always remember that “life” is about much more than it; and I will endeavour to treat serious issues seriously but I won’t forget that “no worries” is a Biblical, as well as antipodean, mandate.
- They engage in civil and political discourse, but are always aware that no politician or party can truly represent them. For example, I couldn’t vote even if I wanted to so I don’t expect US politicians to have my best interests at heart, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be meaningfully involved in the discussion. And if anyone was to ask me whether I’m a Democrat or a Republican, the answer is easy… I’m Australian.
- Finally, they intentionally counter the subtle erosion caused by residing in a foreign land. For example, I use an Australian calendar and, even though you wouldn’t catch me dead with it in Australia, an Australian beach towel. I have also asked Aussie friends to honestly tell me if my accent or attitude are on the slide. The stakes are too high to leave it to chance or try to do it alone.
Are there any other aliens out there?