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Tag Archives: Independence Day

EXPAT MOMENTS: Unravelling the enigma of American fireworks booths

Another post in our series focusing on little moments or images of expat experience.

Like a fungal spore, they appeared unannounced one morning about four weeks ago. Every parking lot in town had one — a single compact wooden booth covered in brightly colored posters.

Inside each of these booth, sweating in the summer heat, sat a vendor surrounded by merchandise – box upon box of fireworks. The vendor lists off the inventory, the names sounding more like dive-bar cocktails than pyrotechnics: Shagadellic Mojos; Fiery Frogs; Round Red Dahlias; Falcons Rising; Dragons’s Tears.

Over the next few weeks, I learn two things about these booths. First, that each booth has been set up by local group, that depending which booth you choose you are, in fact, deciding which school or church or local charity you want to help raise funds for. I calculate that there must be around 200 of these booths around town. That is a lot of local groups and non-profits and yet my response is an apathetic one, the response of a man who feels untethered to this community, who has no cause here he wants to endorse and support. The second thing I learn, from those who cast me a conspiratorial glance, is that I don’t want to waste my time with these booths. They know a man. He has “stuff” from Mexico. It’ll blow your mind, and possibly your arm — Shagadellic Mojos these ain’t.

And then, a week or so after July 4th and just as quickly as they appeared, one morning you wake and the booths have gone. 

STAY TUNED for next Monday’s post – a round up of Olympics books.

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EXPAT MOMENTS: What to wear for an Independence Day Party

Another in our series focusing on little moments of expat experience — moments that at the time seemed pifflingly insignificant.

As far as I can gather, the main advantage of Independence Day for many people seems to be the opportunity to dust off and wear that stars-and-stripes leather jacket that they bought back in 1979.

Wishing to get into the Independence Day spirit, it was clear that I also needing something “appropriate” to wear if I wanted to blend in successfully so I headed over to Target, a fine American corporation that would hopefully have even finer American clothing for me to purchase.

Finding the Target employee that looked the most patriotic — the telltale signs are a sensible haircut, good posture, and a strong jaw line — I asked where I might find the most patriotic T-shirts in store. Leading me to a selection of T-shirts featuring the stars and stripes, it was difficult for me to contain my disappointment with this somewhat anemic selection.

“Hmmm, do you have anything more patriotic?” I asked.

The patriotic youth seemed a little confused, a look that made him seem increasingly un-American.

“I was,” I said, “looking for something with a little more pizzazz. Something more OTT. I was kinda hoping you’d have one where Jesus is cradling the liberty bell while a bald eagle looks down approvingly?”

He just stared back at me. I’d been wrong about him. His jaw line was not as strong as I’d thought, his posture a little crooked, and his hair-style now I was closer was greasy and ostentatious.

“Why would we have that?” he sneered.

“Because you love this country — that’s why!”Though difficult, I tried to calm myself down and keep my temper in check. “Okay, have you got anything with a bald eagle in full flight in front of the stars and stripes, but, and this is the important bit, with a kick-ass explosion going on behind the flag? No? Nothing?”

“Have you tried Wal-Mart?”

I wandered off disappointed. This must have been how Benedict Arnold felt. You try and give this American lark a try, but you just end up getting kicked in the teeth. And that was when I saw the above little number, which I decided would from now on be my Independence Day T-shirt.

A version of this post first appeared on Culturally Discombobulated

STAY TUNED for Thursday’s post, in which Kate Allison debunks some common myths about the UK vs the USA.

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