While living abroad over the past three years we have witnessed several historic moments up close. When we were in Mexico in March, 2013, we experienced firsthand the collective elation of the Latin American world when the Argentine cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was named Pope Francis I. We were living in the United Kingdom in July, 2013, when Prince George was born, the newest heir to the British Throne.
Most recently, we watched the swearing in of Spain’s new king, Felipe VI. The event was a ceremony without a coronation or much fanfare, following the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos, for reasons of poor health. Even though this was a low key event by royal standards, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards lined up along the parade route from the Congress of Deputies to the Royal Palace in downtown Madrid, where thousands more assembled below the palace’s central balcony to cheer their new king and his family.
Outside of the political arena, the top story in the world right now is the World Cup soccer tournament taking place in Brazil. It is fascinating to watch the hopes of sports fans from around the world rise and fall with the fortunes of their national teams. I wonder how many Americans know or care that the United States soccer team is still alive in the qualifying pool with Germany, Ghana and Portugal, and a victory in either of their next two games will advance the U.S. team to the win-or-go-home second round of the tournament.
Every café and bar across Spain turns on the live telecast of the soccer matches. Games start here five hours later than local time in Brazil and fans gather in the evenings at every watering hole for the excitement. Unfortunately, Spaniards have had little to cheer about. Although Spain was the top-rated team going into the World Cup, this week they suffered their second straight loss and they will soon be packing for the trip home. Highly-ranked England lost their second game as well (to Uruguay), and they, too, are headed home.
Although my expectations for the United States team are low, I will be excited if they advance in the tournament against the world’s elite teams, most notably Holland, Germany, Brazil and our next opponent, Portugal. And even though I am not a huge soccer fan, I find myself cheering for teams from my favorite countries that I have visited – Croatia, Chile, Uruguay and Mexico.
Soccer in the U.S. has never caught on like football, baseball or basketball. Even professional hockey draws three times more paid attendance per season than does soccer. I think one reason Americans find men’s professional soccer laughable is because so often following contact between players, the player with the ball collapses in a theatric display of pain and agony, which looks as phony as professional wrestling. It appears these feeble antics are displayed with the hope of drawing a penalty, and most American spectators would react like ‘What a wussie!’ The exception this week was Mexico. Their machismo was evident as they battled host-nation Brazil to a 0-0 tie. The Mexican players jumped up quickly from the turf so as to not give any satisfaction to their more physical opponents that the hits they absorbed had any effect.
The World Cup continues up to the finals on July 13, and I will be proud of the U.S. team no matter how they perform. Also, I will cheer for my favorite underdogs to hold their own against the world’s football powers. Unlike American football, superior strength and a strong running game is not the typical determining factor in a soccer match. Like Spain found out, being elite does not assure victory. Personally, I think Germany is the team to beat. Do you have a prediction?
Wow! When you summarize all the world events that you have been closely living by, it is just amazing! It is reminding me of one of the lines of, “You’re So Vain…” Not the part about vanity, but how Carly Simon is saying that the subject of her ‘rant’ is always where the people are, when it is a special or cool place to be. I am giving you the ‘gist’ of the line, but could look up the phrase to be more clear. You and Florence are definitely able to discern where the popular ‘hot spots’ to be seen at, are!
Just teasing you a bit. But really, how exciting to be there for the new Pope Francis being from the part of South America, (Argentina) where you were closely living, the baby’s birth in England, the changing of royalty in Spain, and where everyone is excited about ‘futbol’ or soccer, in Brazil, you can watch it with an excited group in Spain!
This is such a fun post, where no one is hurt, except for the occasional soccer kicks with spiked shoes against shins. My youngest daughter got her share of those, although not nearly as hard as the poor, writhing in agony, player pictured. Hugs for this exciting post!!
We chanced into these newsworthy happenings unwittingly, but it has been a treat to experience these events with locals in those countries where the impact was felt directly. It also gave us something significant to talk about with the locals. Most interesting of all these events was how low-key was the transfer of the Spanish crown to Felipe VI. The monarchy in Spain is controversial because the royal family seems so detached from the plight of the so many Spaniards reeling from the poor economy. It remains to be seen if King Felipe can create a feeling of warmth that is reciprocated by his people. Even though his father, King Juan Carlos, rescued Spain from fascism under President Franco in the 70’s and gave the people democracy, there is strong sentiment that Spain no longer needs a monarchy. Having lived here for awhile, we will take a special interest in what happens in Spain.
Thank you for your creative comments and the humorous musical metaphor! 🙂 – Mike
“Well you’re where you should be all the time, and if not…” applies to you and Florence, Mike! And the other part, DOES NOT!! (“you’re with some underworld spy or a wife of your best friend..”.)
I’m sure there are more applicable songs but this was the first one that sprang to this old seventies’ brain! Smiles, Robin
While our anthem over the past three years could easily have been ‘Leavin’ on a Jet Plane’ (Peter, Paul and Mary), the more apropos song for us now would have to be ‘Homeward Bound’ (Simon & Garfunkel). However, my favorite travel song at this time is ‘End of the Line’ (The Traveling Wilburys – Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty). Here is the part that resonates most with me:
Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and gray
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line
Robin, if you occasionally catch yourself cheerily humming this tune, perhaps you will think of me. 🙂 – Mike
Going back a few weeks to read your comments and really was pleasantly surprised with this one, Mike! I hum and sing, “My bags are packed and I’m ready to go,… standing here outside your door…” often to my grandkids. I have also sung it with 2 of my coworkers, Peggy and Lu, at a karaoke bar.
As far as Simon and Garfunkel, I know you know I love them!
I have listened to the Traveling Wilburys but did not realize the talent in the whole list of musicians! Wow! I will have to re-listen to this song, writing it down so maybe my friend, Bill, will put it on his cell phone while we are doing our postponed once a month meal out! (I was at Mom’s for our traditional “First Friday” night out!) We will be heading to Steve Dakota Grille for a large steak, potato and salad, I save almost 2/3 of the meal, making it last the whole weekend! I will write the title down right now on my little tablet in my purse! Thanks for the extra time you took to re-acquaint me with this lively and meaningful tune, Mike!
Good post Mike, and a good point. I suspect that this is one of the first thing that most travelers (as opposed to tourists) learn abroad. Another interesting thing that I’m sure you’ve run into is how differently events in America are interpreted abroad. Americans have never been terribly popular overseas, and in recent years it’s only gotten worse. A few months after the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, we spent a month traveling across Java. After being grilled (a couple of times uncomfortably), we started telling people that we were Canadians – no joke. That got us through, but we learned a valuable lesson: keep your passport in your pocket, your opinions to yourself, listen and nod pleasantly, and move on quietly. And that’s been our MO ever since. ~James
There are not a lot of Americans in Spain outside of the cruise ships, so people we have met, especially the Brits, typically ask us, ‘What part of Canada are you from?’ My usual response is, ‘The southern part.’ It has been a good icebreaker.
We have found in a number of countries that the locals love to talk about politics. That has led to some interesting moments. Two occasions come to mind. When we were in Bosnia/Herzegovina, we were surprised at how warmly we were received as Americans. The people still think of Bill Clinton as a national hero, especially since his visit for the dedication ceremony of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in 2003.
In Argentina, we were traveling with a local college professor and his wife – wonderful people that we have stayed in contact with. His comment to me still resonates -‘We love you Americans, but what is wrong with your politics.’ I continue to wonder about that myself. – Mike
I’m always incredulous as to how much we don’t see/read from other countries… of course when it comes to sports right now, it’s ” GO USA!!”
It works both ways. We find little news about the U.S. in Europe except when we send more troops to another country. And its impossible to get scores from the NFL (except for the Super Bowl), MLB (except for the World Series) and NBA. Well, they love basketball here, so all the playoff scores are given since there are now many Europeans playing in the NBA. – Mike