The Fourth of July came and went nearly unnoticed by the population here at large. And why would it? Here, ten thousand kilometers away from the nearest US city1Hi, Honolulu!, it’s a date that has a thousand meanings but none as profound as it is to us Americans. Of course we’re hardly alone in our celebrations of beginnings, evidence of Singapore’s pending golden anniversary abound. There were of course, no fireworks on the Fourth, but the violent roar of passing fighter jets (more evidence, I presume, such has been the norm to see fighters flying over in formation) screaming overhead. True to Portland tradition, it rained on the Fourth, but not in Portland. A torrent of rain instantly soaked me as I went to the market to buy eggs for our macaroni salad2and, nonya dumplings, because good God damn, they are my favorite but I paid it no mind – it was the Fourth and some traditions need to be upheld.
We passed the Fourth in the company of other Americans – coworkers of Beverly’s and two new friends united by a hairdresser. Seriously, a young couple, also from Portland, who when I learned that neither worked for Nike, left me in some confusion. Not having the chance how they knew our hostess, Beverly revealed later that Talia and Claire shared the same hairdresser in Beaverton and she revealed to each that she had two clients both moving to Singapore both around the same time period. Ties such as these seem to be common among expats, where only memory unites.
Food hit all the right American spots. Ribs, grilled to perfection3as close to perfection as a grill alone can do. Give me my smoker, stand back and watch me work, y’all!, grilled chicken, two types of pasta salad and – praise the Lord and pass the butter – cornbread. We gathered around the table, all of us commenting on the comfort of Southern food, as I joked, “I feel like gay marriage is legal in this room!”
A healthy laugh confirmed that I read my audience right.
Speaking of Southern food – that’s really the quintessential “does not translate” food here. I’ve found a few decent facsimiles of Mexican, usually Tex-Mex in execution, but good ol’ American food just doesn’t make it to Asia that I’ve seen. There are hawker stalls that provide “Western” food that offer American standbys like hot dogs and pasta, and even fried things with roots in Southern cuisine, and I’ve seen a few decent attempts at pulled pork, but explain to someone here the comfort of ribs and cornbread with a side of beans and they’ll look at you as if you’re insane.
It’s not hard to see why. Beans are more of a desert here, red (kidney) beans especially. And trust me, those of you scratching your head, it’s amazing.
July 1st in Oregon, from what my Facebook feed tells me, might be the new April 20th4look up new laws if you’re confused. As Beverly and I passed by yet another fruit stand announcing via smell that it is very much durian season, I reflected on the smells of two cities. Here in Singapore, there is an unmistakable, pungent scent of a local pleasure that some just don’t care for. As Beverly and I boarded the Max towards the Rose Garden for a pair of NCAA games back in February, there was an unmistakable, pungent scent of a local pleasure that some just don’t care for. I have no idea the medicinal qualities of durian, but I know quite well that there are some happy people in Portland feeling good.
As I sat at the table, laughing, making jokes, drinking Australian wine and eating Asian/Oceanic grown food cooked in American style, with the air con blasting, I realized just how much I truly do love the country of my birth. As I “watched” the final score come in for the Women’s World Cup, read the news of the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, and saw the support and love of friends and family towards a more equal society, I realized just how proud I could be to be an American.
What a strange feeling – until I realized that expats aren’t united by memory, but rather love of home and each other, that all-too-human disposition to be united when no reason exists to be apart.