you’ll be surprised how much an island can teach you about America, or more accurately how different my life is from the American one.
Chebeague couldn’t be any more different.
I am from Hong Kong of 7 million people where everyone lives in a tinderbox and behind multiple doors including security guards and double bolted doors if not another metallic gate in front.
The island, is arguably in the middle of nowhere, has around 350 permanent residents who never lock their front doors.
Leaving your front door open would be inviting everything from theives to salesmen.
I have parents who literally work 24/7 because of the range of activities they are involved in.
Anna has parents who moved onto the island because they wanted to find a place to raise kids and not work as much as they would if they loved closer.
The most striking difference was when I first arrived in their household. After lunch, we spent two hours around the dinner table just talking.
On the other hand, my mom would have probably made me do ten other things by the moment I was ready to leave the table.
There were quite a few firsts for me during this stay.
I had my first real Thanksgiving dinner, around a table with a family (albeit not mine) with roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing.
I hanged out for the first time, which meant going around by ourselves in a car to go see a movie without parents keeping tabs on us. Maybe it wasn’t actually that different, but the feeling of independence and responsibility was so much stronger.
I saw my first snowfall, drops of white spontaneously falling from the sky, blanketting cars and the road in a sparkling whiteness.
My first jam session with Herb, learning the Blues scale, the minor fifth and the minor seventh which give the tritone and the distinctive blue sound.
I can’t count the number of intellectual conversations I’ve had in the past few days. Every time Roose, Anna and I have sat down to talk, it evolves into an intellectual conversations and a realization of how different our worlds actually are.
And there are some truths of America that I have come across.
The brain drain from Maine, from the island. I see how it works. Few students go to in-state colleges because they’re not good. Most of the top students go out of state, and eventually find jobs out of state because no good ones are offered in Maine and they end up moving away.
The truth is USA spends more money per capita on education than most other western countries but still produces less than desirable results.
You learn a lot about America’s culture on a boat ride.
The first thing you see is twelve year old girls with miniskirts on putting on makeup and disrespecting their grandparent.
The second thing you see is the aftermath of a divorce, all the children end up being shared by two remarried parents who now have their own children.
The fact is that education is a lot more dependent on your family here. You simply don’t end up or even think about good colleges or even colleges in general unless your parents went through a similar experience and understand the importance of it.
Anna is in college because her mother comes from a family of professors and both her parents are intellectuals and professionals.
It’s a lot to swallow. Chebeague couldn’t be any more different, but it coudln’t be any funner.
I could have gone to NYC or Boston and had good food and met up with high school friends and laughed and talked about our lives. But I realize I’ve learnt so much more here in these 5 days of American culture than I have in the last three months.