You never know who is going to like Nicholas Cage. While I know that sounded like the start of a joke because he is the Nickelback of actors, I learned that it is not a joke but instead fact. For some reason, there is a great deal of love to our favorite ghost riding, declaration saving, treasure hunting actor, here in Kosovo. Perhaps it is because of the endless supply of his movies which litter KTV (Kosovo Television Broadcast). Or maybe, maybe we just have it all wrong in America. Perhaps he truly is an established actor worthy of praise?
In the Peace Corps we have three goals, but for the sake of this post goal number two is most relevant: To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served. In more plain English, to show the people whom we interact with here what an American is like, how we live, and how we think. I am now my village’s representation of America. If it scares you that what I do represents America to around three thousand people then we have something we agree on; it is a scary thing. It is also a powerful thing. I can be an example for positive change, because America and its culture is held in high regard. I go to the gym often, attempt to eat healthily, drink a lot of water, and spend my free time reading. I also think differently: I pet the strays instead of kicking them or being afraid of an puppy who just wants to tackle you with its love, I do not treat people differently based on their gender, I break gender norms. The hope is that people see that I do things differently and question why I do it. The hope is create a dialogue within themselves to promote positive change.
Being the American in the village, sometimes the first many have met, also makes me the resident scholar on all things America. For example, if my host brother wants to know the age of George Washington at the day of his inauguration, I should know. It should be common knowledge for Americans to know these things. If only he knew a large portion of Americans cannot recall all fifty states. Luckily my internet connection is always stable and Google serves us well when my knowledge on America does not satisfy his questioning.
The Peace Corps always told us that there would be times when cultures clash and to do our best to understand and accept the other culture; we are only guest. However, because another goal is to help share American culture with Kosovars. Sometimes it is difficult to satisfy both of these sometimes contradicting pieces of advice. Specifically, when it comes to Nicholas Cage.
There we are enjoying our Sunday morning brunch (we often eat around noon) when Ghost Rider becomes the subject for discussion. “What a great movie!” “Isn’t there a second one? We’ve got to see it!” My face showed a look of agreement, but I could not help but have a slight smirk which screamed, “NOOO.” Enter the first reference to Nicholas Cage, “He is such a good actor.” To my response, “You think so?” What followed was a list of adjectives supporting his excellence.
Clearly, this was the best time to express a little something about American culture. I told them that I personally do not like him. Then I told them about how much Americans love to joke about their hate for Nicholas Cage. This comment was greeted by my host brothers shock. And a kind of stare that could be used to bend forks with your mind from my host father; for a second I could feel the power of his stare bending my opinion. Things were tense for a moment, no one spoke. I had broken a cultural barrier, never speaking of Nicholas Cage in a negative light. A few more seconds passed and my host father spoke, “But at least he is rich.”
His words achieved what Peace Corps had told us: represent and teach American culture while additionally learning and respecting the culture which you reside. Sadly, the emphasis on wealth seems to be one thing that all cultures understand and prescribe to.
Thank you for bearing with my infrequencies in posting. Time is sometimes plentiful and other times seriously lacking.