I was sitting in a dingy local cafe in Pokhara, Nepal. My companions, an old Malaysian man and a young Spaniard, were passionately arguing about the American presidential primaries. An American journalist myself, by March 2016, I’d heard far too much about this election already. I sat quietly, smoking hash and watching the conversation with a detached interest. One can learn a lot about their own home by seeing how foreigners perceive it.
For instance, everyone abroad seems to think Americans are constantly shooting each other in the streets; our gutters running red with the blood of an armed citizenry. Which is true—from a certain perspective—I suppose. The US experiences far more citizen-to-citizen gun violence than most other places in the world. But it’s far from my day-to-day experience in the US, the same way my sister’s day-to-day experience living in Benin, Africa, didn’t always involve warring tribes and dying children. (If you want to find out what her day-to-day experience WAS like living in West Africa, click here.)
[this is an installment in an ongoing series about my travels in Nepal. The story starts here. It’ll make a good deal more sense if you start there, but feel free to make your own decisions]
The Malaysian was deep into a diatribe about Trump’s international business dealings—he had worked for some sort of business trade publication, before ‘rearranging his life” to travel the world full-time. The Spaniard, an artist, quietly listened.
“Ted Cruz, I think, he is more dangerous than Trump,” the Malaysian said. “He is crazy man.”
“He is like a religious zealot!” the Malaysian rocked back and forth. “We know his type in Malaysia. And he is smart man. Trump would be better than him.”
“Trump is not smart,” the Spainard said with a chuckle. “The things he says, dios mio…”
“Exactly!” the Malaysian exclaimed, rocking forward and wagging a finger at the pair of us on the opposite side of the table.
“Better a man who does not know what he can do, than one who knows exactly how to do what he wants. In fact, this is what scares me about Hillary Clinton.”
“She knows the system very well,” I acknowledged. “But I have to see that as a good thing.”
“Ah, but she is corrupt, yes?” the Spaniard turned toward me. “This is what everyone says, I do not know if it is true or not? Is she bad?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “She is a politician.”
All three of us, from three different cultures on three different continents, erupted in laughter.
Some things are universal.