Thursday, August 30, 2012

On representing the greatest country on earth

For my four-day trip through northern Europe, all the shirts I brought said USA, or USA Track and Field. Each time I took off my jacket and displayed the USA on my chest, I was very aware that I was representing my country, and tried extra hard not to bump into people, jaywalk, spill things on myself, or otherwise be a poor representative of the USA.

With a statue representing Anne Frank in Amsterdam

I needn't have worried. Every time someone addressed me, they addressed me in Dutch. And when I said "English," they switched to English, but some looked surprised. I found this rather amazing. It said USA on my shirt, and I was invariably holding a map, so I was obviously a tourist, right?

Apparently not. Twice, in the Hague, after switching to English, people even asked me for directions, and one time I was actually able to help them! That was awesome.

I guess a lot of Europeans wear shirts that say California or New York City or whatever, so it is not that unusual to see someone wearing a USA shirt. It doesn't make the person an American.

Why, you might ask, did I only bring USA shirts? I wanted to trade them with people from foreign countries at the track meet in Belgium, and I was only bringing a small backpack (pictured above), which I had to run with one day (pictured below), so I wanted to bring the absolute minimum amount of clothing.

At the end of an 8-mile run in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam

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