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GirdeNan
02-10-08, 14:04
Saturday, June 03, 2006
The World Through a Bagel

When New Yorkers meet people who say they are from other places, we jut assume they are kidding. Not only could we not imagine wanting to be from some place other than New York, we barely know that other places exit. And this is pretty amazing when you figure that 60% of us are first generation Americans. I mean our parents had to have come from somewhere but once we became New Yorkers the rest of the world ceased to exist.

When we meet people form Oklahoma or Connecticut or someplace, we don’t even know what to say. “So, do you know how to drive a tractor?”

We have a poster in New York which is titled the United States to a New Yorker. It has a map with New York in huge letters, LA in relatively large letters, Las Vegas and Florida are barely visible and the rest is blank. Growing up in Brooklyn, anything north of 115th Street was called Canada. And, if you had the misfortune of sailing west of Jersey we believed you would fall of the edges off the Earth.

In the old Batman comics New York was called Gotham City. The joke is on us, however, because in ancient Greek mythology Gotham was a city where the people believed they were sophisticated but in actuality, they were idiots.

New Yorkers are ethnocentric, they look in on themselves and never look outside. The New York skyline was built so that in those rare situations where New Yorkers had to leave, maybe for a business trip to LA, we could see the skyline on the way back. It is strange but the best views of New York are the ones when you get from outside, looking in. Said another way, when a new Yorker goes out, instead of looking forward he turns back and looks home.

In New York, our favorite breakfast food is the bagel. And we believe we invented them. But my Israeli friends would probably argue that point. The bagel to me is the perfect model of an ethnocentric society. Looked t form the side, a bagel appears to be strong and solid. But looked at from another angle, you realize it is hollow inside. If you lived inside of a bagel, you wold be safe from the outside world. And every opinion you had about yourself or about the world would just be reinforced because no new ideas could pierce the protective bagel.

But bagels aren’t to blame. In fact, if you hold two bagels up to your eyes, you can get a new perspective on the world. And even if you fail to see the world differently, the world will certainly look at you differently.

My parents are from Italy but the first time I went abroad was when I attend university in Germany. In my four years in Europe I began to realize every culture is ethno centric. For one thing, if you bought a map of the world in a foreign country, that country is always at the center. It is is not hard to believe that the French would put them selves at the center of the world. In fact, now that Euro-Disney is doing well, they tell their children, “There is a copy in Florida.” But actually we all do it. And if you buy a map in a foreign country they also use their own place names for the other countries of the world.

On a German map of the world, the Baltic Sea is called the East Sea. And the area we call the Middle East is called the Near East.

I was eating a Nestle bar that my family sent to me in a care package and one of my classmates said. Nestle is a German company. No it’s not. I have eaten nestle my whole life. It is American. We looked it up, Nestle is Swiss. In Germany they claim Daimler built his Mercedes Benz before Henry Ford made the model T and the French claim to be first in flight. The Italians claim to have invented everything because Leonard Davinci drew pictures of it.

During my final year in Germany a Phd. researcher returned to Germany with startling news. After years of research she had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that bagels were invented in Poland.

I spent the last four years working in Southeast Asia as an adventure travel writer. I studied the history culture and language of each of the countries where I worked, and determined that the Asian are just as ethnocentric as we are. The Taiwanese were extreme. They had a map on the wall with Taiwan at the center, it had China, Japan and the US. Everything else was blank. The world according to a Taiwanese. And it wasn’t just that they didn’t know about Europe they didn’t know about anything outside of Taiwan.

I knew that I would be working in Myanmar at some point so I wanted to find out how to say it in Chinese. But none of my Chinese teaches knew that English name. No problem I said. I will describe it. Myanmar is a former British colony, which borders on Thailand. They have had civil war for fifty years. They had an election and Aung San Su Kye won, but they placed her under house arrest.

“Oh, you mean Belgium.”

“No.”

“Tahiti?”

“No.”

“New York?”

“I didn’t say they invented bagels did I?”

But of all of the countries I have ever been in China was by far the most zenocentric.

In Taiwan, the name for the Chinese language was Guo Yu, or national language. In China, the name for the Chinese language was, Putong Hwa, or common speech. The name for the country of China was, Chung Gwo, which means the center country or middle country. They believe that they were the center of everything.

In a way, they are right. China is surrounded by a Great Wall. Which means, from space, China looks like a bagel. In school, we were taught that the wall was built to keep foreign ways out. But after living there, I believed it was built to keep Chinese ways in.


In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote: (And I paraphrase)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, the future was expected to be so much like the present, that the present was referred to in the superlative.

When I was living in a monastery in China, my friend, Miao Ping, always used the superlative when talking about China. We have the best universities. We have the best police, the biggest economy, the best hospitals. How do you measure that I asked.


Our doctors know how to cure AIDS he told me
Then why don’t you tell the WHO because they think it is incurable.
We did, but no one believes us.

I let most of that slide. During the SARS epidemic I got extremely sick and was admitted to Chinese hospital where I was appalled at the filth and at the outdated equipment and reusable syringes. The hospital gurneys had bicycle wheels on them. And the doctor administered treatment before he did a diagnosis. I lay I bed all night with an IV. The guy in bed next to em was vomiting blood only inches from my head. They didn’t give us food or water in the hospital and the beds were so close together I knew I had to get out or I would get really sick.

When the doctor said he was going to change my IV needle I waited till he left the room and I ran out of the hospital. I bumped into Miao Ping in the lobby, and we road back to the temple together.

But when he said to me China is the cleanest country I the world, I ripped into him

If you are the cleanest country in the world, why are you the only one with SARS? I asked.

Eventually, the SARS quarantine had made everyone so paranoid it was impossible for foreigners to continue to live in china. So I headed back to Hong Kong. A few months later I was back in china. This time I was crossing the Taklamakan Desert on a tricycle rickshaw. I loaded up the back of the bike with food and water. There was a generally a Uyghur village about a days ride apart and I would buy food and water at these villages.

The Uyghur are a Turkic people, descended from Arabs and Turks. The country had once been independent East Turkistan, which was annexed by China illegally, after they annexed Tibet. The Uyghur were so thoroughly cut off from the rest of the world, by their desert nomadic existence, that they believed there were two races in the world there was Uyghur and there was Chinese. Nothing else existed for them. When I would walk in they would stare at me for a long time, trying to decide who or what I was. I certainly look more like a Uyghur than I do like a Chinese. But then when I spoke to them in Chinese they would breathe a sight of relief, ok he is Chinese.” At one point I showed my American flag to a Uyghur man who kept insisting that I was Chinese. I showed him the flag but he didn’t know what it was. In fact he thought I was a fabric salesman and he took it between two fingers and felt the material. But apparently decided it wasn't tough enough so he didn’t buy it.

An interesting side note to the Chinese there were also only two people, foreigners and Chinese, but Uyghur to them were Chinese because they belonged to chain. In fact I tried to get my Chinese friends to admit that the Uyghur looked differently and spoke a different language, but they just wouldn’t hear it.

The Uyghur people ate a diet primarily of goat meat, bread, and noodles. I had been in Asia a long time, and was very bread deprived. The Uyghur had countless varieties of bread, ranging from the unleavened kind, right out of the Old Testament, to bread baked in a clay, coal-fired oven, to breads cooked in earth, covered in sand, with a roaring fire above. As a bread fan, I found it interesting that one of the Uyghur breads was made from dough dropped in boiling oil. This seems to be a universal bread. Every culture from Italy to East Tennessee to East Turkistan, seems to enjoy deep- fried bread. In Italy we call it zepole, in the Appalachian Mountains we called it funnel cake. In Spain they call it Churos.

But as a New Yorker the bread that interested me most was a large, circular bread with a hole in the middle. Yes, the Uyghur were making bagels. And since it was unlikely that they were brought there by New Yorkers, Poles, or Israelis. I had to guess that the Uyghur invented bagels. A couple of years later, I was in Thailand doing a story, and was working with a photo journalist from New York. We were two New Yorkers, having a laugh, swapping tales of our experiences in China. When I told him about the bagels, he begged me.

“Antonio, please don’t ever tell anyone that story.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He just shook his head.
“The oldest minted coins in the world were found in China, so they claim they invented money. The Peking Opera is older than Greek Theater. So, they claim they invented entertainment. If this story about the bagels gets out, they will claim they invented breakfast.”

posted by Antonio Graceffo @ 3:23 PM

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source: http://motivational-antonio.blogspot.com/2006/06/world-through-bagel.html

Unregistered
02-10-08, 21:19
Qizziq hiyake iken. Gijde (bagel) Uzbek, Afghan, Iranliqlardimu barmu yaki Uyghurlardila barmu? Bulidighanlar barmu? belik Omer Qanat Afghanistanda bar-yoqlighini bulishi mumkin.