What a semester to spend away from the US! As an international student, I’m witnessing both the Olympic games and the US presidential election from outside of America for the first time.

As the Olympics are now under way, it amazes me how much pride and spirit Australia has. I think that I have followed the Olympics here closer than ever before (Disclaimer: much of the reason for my new-found obsession is the atmosphere here, however, I must admit that part of my increased Olympic interest is allowed by my less hectic schedule than at Duke, but I digress). I’m learning new names such as the likes of Grant Hackett, Stephanie Rice and Leisel Jones, while also learning that Australians actually call soccer ‘soccer,’ which makes life so much easier on the US kids.

Apart from the Olympics, rugby, cricket and Aussie rules football reign here, while many of my Aussie friends don’t understand baseball and think American football is a joke (“They wear pads and helmets!! Real men play rugby.” )

To date, no one much cares about the US presidential election and some people I’ve asked don’t even know who is running. I must admit, getting out of the political hype is a bit of a welcome relief for me. As the race heats up closer to November, I would guess that it will get more international coverage… but we’ll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, I’m content with all the front page news concerning medal tallies and accounts of swimming world records being smashed every day. And for a little further evidence that sports are extremely important to Aussies: the sports section generally takes up half of The Daily Australian, so far as I can tell.

And a quick personal note: as part of my descend into Australian culture,  I will be attempting to learn women’s cricket 🙂 Unfortunately, it’s not Aussie rules season here at Uni and my 5’3″ frame would get destroyed in rugby. I’m going to need all of my limbs in working order to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef in 6 weeks. So, cricket it is.


Apologies, this will read like the standard Thomas Friedman column:

“Globalization!!!…America losing its standing in the world…China and India rising!!!”

Formulaic, but probably true.

After traveling the long 44 miles between Amman and Jerusalem yesterday, I’ve been catching up with cousins, aunts and uncles I haven’t seen since I was much shorter. Life in the Middle East generally, and the West Bank in particular, is closely tied up with politics. Even so, people here are still abuzz about Bollywood films and China’s economic development.

Evidence: Yesterday, I had a conversation with my 60+ aunt about her love for Bollywood films. She knew every megastar and even every starlet, from Shahrukh down to Imran.

It’s not just her, either. Bollywood is very popular here. There are several satellite channels that exclusively broadcast Hindi films subtitled in Arabic all day every day.

Today, we shifted from Mumbai to Beijing as we watched the opening ceremony of the Olmypics. Throughout it, all of my relatives were abuzz about China’s economic development and perceived increasing wealth.

The panoramic shots of Beinjing’s newly-minted Olympic infrastructure only served to confirm their perception that China is already, more or less, a developed country. And as we watched every country from Monaco to Guinea-Bissau proudly soldier their national flag, they wondered which country would take the medal count: China or the United States. No one was sure.

Don’t worry, though, they watch Hannah Montana too. America still has something going for it.