Day 342: USA, where the streets are made of cheese

A few of the rumors I dispelled today about my fair country, the US of A, during a discussion with two 18-year-old Kenyan boys:
  1. We are not allowed to have more than two children
  2. Fighting and yelling at each other constitutes divorce in the US
  3. Our divorce rate is really high because people get married with expiration dates included in the process. In other words, people agree before the marriage that in ten years, they will split up.
It was so odd to go over these questions again and again, and to find out that I was, in fact, understanding their English correctly.

While it is certainly true that the US has a great reputation over here (Kenyan Barack Obama is helping our cause), Claire and I are frequently made nervous by its reputation as some kind of paradise reminiscent of the “there are no cats in America, and the streets are made of cheese” song in American Tail (anyone?). It is hard to balance, as we must acknowledge Kenya’s struggling economy and difficult political situation (understatements), but we also feel obligated to point out that yes, there are poor people in America, and that simply getting a plane ticket there does not mean that all their troubles will disappear. They do ask, however, about how much a plane ticket costs, and when converted to shillings, the staggering nearly six-figure number tends to abbreviate the conversation. Until one of them remembers that about half of the kids who graduate from here plan to become pilots—why pilots? You may ask…we have been left wondering ourselves—and then they all go right back to dreaming of America: land of milk and honey.

Ironically, milk and honey are probably the two products that taste different enough here for me to really miss their American versions.

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