Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Olympics Withdrawal and Identity Crisis

The Olympics are over.  What are we going to do now?  Already I miss the cheering coming from the family room and a minute-by-minute update on who is in the lead.  And it's only day two of Olympic-free living.  Groan.

This was an interesting year for the Olympics in our house with my two kids old enough to follow the competitions.  It was unlike any past Olympics for me.  My children showed me how different their upbringing is from mine.  When I was a kid, there was no question for whom I was rooting, the USA (although, I must admit, I'm such a softie and most times silently rooted for the underdog).  For my kids,  the cheering field is a lot wider.

For example, on a typical Olympics 2012 day, I could hear my daughter singing, "Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Ethiopia," rolling the word around in her mouth like grapes.  She was watching the 2012 Olympic Track and Field races where the lithe, nut-brown men and women figured predominantly.

"I love that word!  Ethiopia," my daughter sang, "Have we been there, Mama?"

"Not yet," I smiled.

"Where is it?"

"In Africa."

"Oooo.  Can we move there someday?"

"Maybe," I replied, "You never know where we'll go next."

"We haven't been to Africa," my son piped in as he ticked off on his fingers the 14 countries he has been and the 3 continents of which they are part.  "Isn't that where the Lees and your friends, Bruce and Julie, are going?"

"Yep," I nodded, shaking my head at his almost savant memory of people and places.

"Are they in Ethiopia," my daughter sang the last word, yet again.

"No, they're in Kenya and Bruce and Julie are going to Zimbabwe."

"Hey!" my son pointed to the TV, "KENYA!  I'm rooting for Kenya since our friends are there!"

And so the cheering went when they saw athletes from Mexico and Guatemala ("Since I was born there!"), Finland, Cuba, Bosnia, Poland, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Turkey ("Our friends live/d there!"), Honduras, Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic ("Since we've visited there!") along with the USA ("Since we ARE Americans!).

Watching the Olympics through EuroSports and Serbian TV cast a broader light on the competition for us; whoever was excelling at the moment was featured on the screen, compared to US networks who predominately focused their cameras on Americans.  CNN online's Frida Ghitis wrote an interesting article titled,  "Americans Miss Out on the Best of the Games,"  which highlights the US network's slanted coverage and the inspiring non-American athletes the American public missed.

We, though, got it all.  While the camera flitted from one countryman to another, my kids yelled out the country name.  Every new country prompted a geography interrogation, a getting out of the globe, and the shaming realization of how poor my US-taught geography is!  And to think I am so much better than I was when we started this business!  Don't you remember looking at the bid-list wondering where in the heck Ljubljana was?  My kids can say that word.  They've even been there, for goodness sake!

In general, when we live in a country, we cheer for that country.  Novak Djokovic is our favorite tennis player.    Tose is our favorite Macedonian singer.  Shakira is our favorite Latin singer.  It was quite the conundrum in our house when Serbia (or any of the other places we've lived, for that matter) and the US were competing against each other.  We usually ended up cheering for them both and feeling sad for whoever lost and happy for whoever won.

In the end, their chests burst with pride over their home country's medals, though savoring the victories of their beloved friends just as much.  Isn't that the way it should be?

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