Everyone had more to say than just which candidate they supported (oddly enough, I've yet to meet a British or Welsh person who does not support Obama), and most of the time what they had to say showed that they were informed, not just blindly choosing sides. It made me feel like I needed to come home and read up on the UK political system, which I didn't quite do (but I did pick Josh's brain). But more importantly, it made me remember how self-interested we can be as Americans. With a country so big that it's rare to live anywhere near an international border, it's easy to forget about the rest of the world, to look at it from afar and see the big news and the scenery but not the details. And it's a bit scary to realize this, considering how global the economy is becoming and how international travel is becoming easier and more common. Shouldn't we be keeping up? What does it mean that we're buying products made in factories halfway across the globe, by people who most likely could recognize the face of our president, when we probably couldn't even identify the capital of their country, speak a word of their language, let alone say anything about their government?
So this is a challenge myself to learn more about the country that I'm living in, its history, its culture, and its politics. It's easy to push aside those things and focus on what's immediate in my life--my essays, my dissertation, and going to work so I can support myself. And I'm obviously not running next door to the bookstore to pick up a book on Welsh history and politics, but I'm going to try and be realistic. Even learning in little ways is still learning--by reading the newspaper, talking to my customers and coworkers who have lived and grown up in Wales, or learning a few words of Welsh.
Since arriving here, I've discovered and fallen in love with the Scottish musician Emeli Sandé. The title of this post is a line from my favorite song of hers, "Hope", and I feel it fits the mood of this post. Give it a listen, and maybe you'll set yourself a personal challenge to learn a little bit more about the world beyond your doorstep.