Friday, October 25, 2013

Feeling like an American again

What is it that makes you feel like one type of person versus another?

I've started to realize in my time as an expat (which, believe it or not, is starting to close in on the two year mark...we're definitely over the year and a half point...which is somewhat shocking and also...oddly believable), is that it's the little things.

Sometimes, when I'm by myself (which is frequently), I'll catch myself getting swept up in feelings of nostalgia, remembering what it was like to be in the States. It could be just something small that sets it all off - the color in a leaf, the way that I'm walking down a neighborhood at night and the temperature is just right, riding in someone's car.

One of the things that most easily brings me back to this state is American tv shows. Especially the ones I guiltily enjoyed the most (mostly on my own, but sometimes in girlish/abiding company). Things like:

  • America's Next Top Model (yes, that horrible reality show with Tyra Banks)
  • Revenge (which is now on its third running season...this really is a guilty pleasure because it's basically a well-made soap opera that's been put into prime time television)
  • Ringer (which was canceled after its first season...most of which I saw before I left the States but which I still oddly pine for)
  • Criminal Minds (which will forever remind me of my parents living room, both in its childhood and modern forms)
  • Castle (who doesn't love Nathan Fillion)
  • The Vampire Diaries (yes, I do watch this whenever I have access to it, which isn't often)
  • Grimm (a fantastically funny show, really, it's better than it should be)
  • CSI (an old favorite, and which I've never gotten sick of...any of the versions...I was actually slightly sad when they cut CSI Miami because let's face it, it may have been the worst of the three, but it was certainly the most blatantly badly entertaining)
And so many others.

All of these remind me what it's like to live in the States. Their characters are all American, their neighborhoods, their cars, their way of living. Everything reminds me of the life I had or at some point in my younger years wished to have or hope to have (not the gruesome parts of course, but rather the beautiful homes they live in...the loving families...the nice cars).

They're blissfully American. And like I said with Homeland, America really is like that, for the upper middle class and wealthy.

I'd heard that I could get a free VPN to override all of the things that were keeping me from my favorite shows but for whatever reason I had too much of a mental block. Even after my team purchased an American VPN for testing purposes I kept my distance. It just seemed right that I was living outside the States, therefore I shouldn't have access to those things. They were only gotten through other means (of which I will not describe here but basically someone else got them for me). All of it seemed like too much work.

I decided to forget about my pinings for America and left them to my books. I decided to focus on my travels and look ahead. And as you can tell from the blog, that's exactly what I did. Sometimes the sentimentality crept in, but otherwise I did a good job of not thinking about the American neighborhoods and lifestyle that I was missing.

Before my intern left to join another company he told me about Media Hint, a little plug in you could add to Chrome or Firefox. Basically described to me as a way to have an American VPN without needing to go through the process, you could add this plug in and boom, you could visit any American site you want without needing to do anything. It would even enable you to get the American catalog of Netflix should you be a subscriber in another country (that's big news in places like Finland or even the UK, where the streaming catalog is significantly less than what we have in the US, and they wonder why/how Netflix became so popular in comparison to other services they already have).

Well, last night I finally gave it a try.

And it was glorious.

Suddenly I had a wealth of free online (and perfectly legal) means of watching my favorite American shows again. I could go to the station sites and watch full episodes like a normal American. OMG.

It felt...like I was granted my citizenship again. This sounds silly I know, but it is really something.

Needless to say I binged. I binged quite heavily, despite the bad connection and hiccups in their playback. I tried to watch as much as I could of what I had been missing these past years. Immersed myself completely in America.

I loved it.

I even found out I could play Pandora. Something I had lost forever except the times I'm in the States with my company SIM. Suddenly my well-curated and never-forgotten radio stations were pouring out like liquid gold over my apartment. It was so wonderfully nostalgic. Like if I closed my eyes I could be transported back to my San Diego townhouse and everything would be exactly as I left it two years ago. It has even been sunny these past few days, so I can pretend.

I know things will never be the same, since I left and time has continued to move on, despite my wanting things to freeze so everytime I go back things will be where I left them. I've changed. But at the very least I can have my little pieces of America back; I can gather them close wherever I am and enjoy them. America will be close, until I return.

One of these days.


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