The Ugly American

Portugal, 2022

I knew our return trip from Portugal would be difficult for me, just as our return from Germany and France had been a few years ago. Walking through small towns and larger cities in Europe filled with coffee shops, interesting people going here and there, and old historic buildings along beautiful rivers makes me joyful. I am at peace.

Not so in this country.

Don’t jump down my throat. I know the United States offers much good not evident in many other parts of the world. I’ve just not been seeing much of it lately. The politics. the violence, the stupidity of people running for office, and the disparity between the rich and poor make my blood boil. I seem to say over and over, “what’s wrong with people?”

I also know that spending a week traveling in Portugal doesn’t make me the expert on Portugal. One of our guides mentioned the 48% tax residents pay (to cover education, health, and infrastructure). Someone in our group gasped. But I nodded in full agreement with the payment. What I don’t know is how our two systems compare. Would I be willing to pay half my salary for a system like theirs? I’d like to think I would, if only to even things out.

I can’t help but think we could learn something from this culture. But we can’t if we continue to put America First and wear blinders blocking our understanding of the rest of the world.

So I am trying to be gentle with myself. I’ll visit a local coffee shop and order espresso. I’ll make sure I keep up with my walks and my writing. Avoiding large crowds helps, as does keeping my schedule as simple as I can.

Yesterday, I called out “Bom Dia!” to someone walking his dog. I’m sure he thought I was a nut, but I don’t care. I’ll pretend I’m there for a while longer.