Monday, November 26, 2007

Seven passports between the four of us

My kids and I all have dual nationality, US and British. Contrary to what many Americans believe, it is perfectly legal to be American and have another nationality too. The Department of State explains on their website that "U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another." Legally, we must use our American passports to enter and leave the United States, and our British ones to enter and leave the UK. UntiI I renew it in a year or so, my British passport still has my maiden name on it so, because my plane tickets are always booked in my married name, I am always unsure as to whether I should show my US passport as I leave the UK or not. My last few flights have been connecting ones - via Iceland, the Netherlands, or Belgium, so I have compromised by showing the British passport at Heathrow and then pulling the US one out at the next airport. So far so good, no one has questioned it.

Having spent thousands of dollars getting a 'green card' (which was actually pink), I thought it would be nice if my kids did not have to jump through the same kind of legal hoops if ever they decide to study or work in Europe. Apparently many other people have been thinking the same way. This evening I heard a report on National Public Radio about Israelis who have been applying for European passports - Israelis whose families left Poland for example, now applying for Polish nationality. In many cases it is not with the intent of moving to that country. One young woman who was interviewed explained that she was applying for a foreign passport so that she would not have any visa problems should she decide to work or study in London for a couple of years. A passport from one European country opens the doors to many others nowadays, and in an increasingly global society it makes sense to me to hold all the passports one is entitled to!

I've heard of Irish-Americans applying for Irish passports too. Again, the intent is not necessarily to return to the 'homeland' but to open up European possibilities. Although I have no doubt that many Americans would disapprove, I don't see this as a bad thing. I think it is important to have connections and loyalties, but that it is not only possible but probably a good thing to have a feeling of belonging to two places. I think one of the advantages of the ease of modern travel is that we can see that other places while different are places to which we might want to belong, and that people from other places can be our friends and family.

Unfortunately, while dual nationals (UK-US) such as myself are tolerated on both a personal and official level, I think there is much suspicion of people who come from other cultures/language backgrounds such as the Iraq or Iran or even Mexico. I see amazing prejudice on a regular basis against people who have not been in the US for long enough to learn English well and wonder if people really would have made the same comments about me when I had only been here a few years. I know they would not. For all the comments folks make about my accent and about the fact that I am a 'foreigner' (despite the fact that I've lived in the US now longer than I lived in the UK) the truth is I am accepted far more quickly and better than someone who does not speak English as their first language. For all the gripes I may have about Being American, I am happy to be here - but I am always happy to be back home in the UK too. Having an American passport doesn't make me any less British - but the fact that I have not renounced my British citizenship does not dilute my commitment to my adopted homeland. Unless you've lived in two countries and loved both, I'm not sure that you'll understand.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Christmas already

I suppose it should have been no surprise to see Christmas decorations up outside people's houses last weekend (before Thanksgiving) given that I had seen them in the stores in the middle of October. The Little Americans in our household were heard muttering in disgust yesterday that it was still far too early for Christmas decorations to be up because it's still "a long time" until Christmas. It might seem like a long time to them, but actually doesn't seem that far off to me. The year just seems to accelerate from the middle of October. I barely have time to turn around, take a few breaths, and figure out where the Christmas presents are that I've been buying all year and hiding around the house, when suddenly the day is upon us and, despite all my good intentions, I still end up till the wee hours on Christmas Eve wrapping presents.

We'll get our tree in a couple of weeks. As we always have a real one, (usually from my father-in-law's backyard), we don't like to get it too early. The lights will go up on the outside of our house the same weekend. I realized as I was looking at our electricity bills for the Riot for Austerity that the lights make a significant difference to the electricity bill, so much as I like them, until we finally invest in some LED lights, I will be trying to minimize the number of days we have them on.

Almost American

Stinking Billy asked why the name Almost American. Very easy really - I was born in the UK, lived in Turkey for a couple of years, and France for another year, but moved to the USA in 1985 thinking I would be here for 2 or 3 years and then I'd return to England. Somehow I ended up staying. I have now lived in the USA for longer than I have lived anywhere else. I have an American passport as well as British one (which is perfectly legal, in case you're wondering.) Having not been raised here, there are still some cultural things I just don't get. I still think of England as 'home', (though of course the US is home too.) I am taken aback when people here make comments about my foreignness, or my accent. I don't feel like a foreigner, and forget my accent is different (though I sound very American when I'm in England!) So although I am An American, and am happy to be one, I'm not entirely American and never will be, and I'm happy about that too.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How hard is this to read?

Hmm - I tried this test on some of the blogs that I read and most are apparently written at an elementary school reading level, with a few at the junior high level. I did finally find one though that the test said is written at the 'Genius' level and one at the University level. Perhaps that explains why I haven't read either of them in several weeks - I'm too lazy to expend that much reading effort. They both happen to be academic blogs, so the reading level is appropriate. I guess I have to wonder if the writing (reading) level of my blog is appropriate to the subject matter? If I'm not writing something academic, should it be written at an easier reading level? Can I make myself write like that? Would I want to? And as for my reading, 'should' I be reading more sites that are 'harder' to read? (Not that I'm sure how they've determined the readability anyway.)

I'm not going to obsess over it. I'm going to keep reading the blogs I find interesting, and writing what I feel like talking about.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Not so addicted

55%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Clearly from the infrequncy of my posts, I'm not so addicted. Been doing a lot of reading of blogs recently though, but that's not blogging, it's reading. Reading blogs is one of my selfish pleasures - taking a little time out of the day to do something that is just for me - but I find it a little depressing too. I used to think I was a decent writer. I even taught writing when I was working my way through a Master's degree. I knew I wasn't 'A Writer' like some of the other teaching assistants in the Freshman Writing Program who were doing degrees in Creative Writing. I did think I was a good writer though, who could teach the undergraduates in my classes how to write better essays. I suppose I was good at writing academic essays. I scored in the 99th percentile when I had to take the state's literacy test to become a certified teacher. I really am not very talented at creative writing though. Never have been. I see some of the beautiful turns of phrase other bloggers seem to produce so effortlessly, and I despair of ever creating anything worth reading.

The only good pieces of creative writing I did in school were more my mother's writing than mine. No, she didn't actually write them for me, but by the time she was done inspiring me, they really were more hers than mine. Looking back, my mother was the only one who ever took the time to teach me how to write. Real cut-and-paste, with scissors and sellotape! What little I learned about good writing, I certainly didn't learn in school. I specifically remember my English teacher when I was 12 who only read the first and last paragraphs of anything I wrote and always gave me 9 out of 10. I proved he didn't read the middles by writing some outrageous things in the middle of one piece. He corrected an error in the first paragraph (which my mother, also an English teacher, had already told me was NOT an error) and gave me 9/10 as usual.

Stinking Billy was asking about the point of blogging and I really don't know what it is for me. I'm definitely not one of those bloggers who's looking for a book contract! I'm not even sure who I'm blogging for or why. DH blogs for a small, select, by-invitation-only, audience which seems to make sense. I've read some excellent blogs recently from mums with autistic kids - well-written, entertaining, and thought-provoking, that set my issues with the Little Americans in perspective. There is much I can learn from the blogs I read. Maybe if I read enough of them, I'll even learn how to write better! The good thing is that even if I don't, people like Maddy, Jude and Sandy, amongst so many others, will all enrich my life.
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