world views vary

My world centers around me, my family, my city and my country, Map makers agree. On every map printed in American, the United States of America is the focal point – top and center – even if Asia has to be split to keep my country in the center.
That world view was challenged recently while searching the Internet for maps of the United States to help our two exchange students learn the 50 states of the USA. I stumbled across several references to upside down maps with the south pole at the top of the wall map of the world and Australia, Indonesia and China as the focal points rather than the USA, Europe and West Africa.
“Upside-down Maps … make me rethink the world. It’s important to remember that there are people all over it.” wrote the author said at website map. “Australia is not down under, we are.”
Having not one, but two exchange students living with us this fall also forces me to rethink my world, even the ongoing news coverage.
For instance, an ongoing concern in the USA revolves around migrant workers who come to do the low paying, undesirable jobs in our prosperous country. Business men with low-end jobs that few people want, welcome the hardworking immigrants who come looking for work – n~ work, anywhere. On the sidelines, citizens reluctant to do the tasks object to the infiltrators.
The situation is not unique to prosperous America. In prosperous Germany, many hardworking immigrants seep across the border from Turkey, In the thriving island country of Japan, the immigrants sail or fly over from mainland China for the opportunity to work and hopefully get ahead.
Our first exchange student recently challenged my vie W1 of myself as an adequate communicator at the computer terminal. She sent a multiple e-mail to all her friends announcing her move to a new apartment. She sent the e-mail in three different languages. When she came to live with us five years ago, she was, I think, fluent in six languages and comfortable enough in English to receive the high school speech award the year she lived with us. Me? I try to avoid thinking about my experiences with college speech class, let alone high school.
During my high school years, I lived in three different states. One move followed a major reduction of my family’s household goods to what we could cram into and on a station wagon and small trailer. That story pales beside our German exchange student’s story: When he was a pre-schooler, his parents, then residents in East Berlin, wrapped up a few of their essential belongings in gift wrap to make them look like they were going to a birthday party on the other side of the Berlin Wall for a few hours. In reality, they left East Berlin without permission to further their studies in West Berlin. Exchange students do not bring a great deal more than that when they come here. International air fees and regulations discourage bringing much more than the essentials.
Speaking of essentials, eating is universal. However, the Japanese -and German number of names for meals pales next to the American list of options: breakfast, brunch, morning coffee break, lunch or dinner, afternoon coffee break, afternoon tea, after school snack, supper or dinner, coffee with dessert and mid-night snack. And our servings are much larger. One of the first e-mail pictures our German student sent home focused on the huge, serving he, received at a fast food stop on this side of the ocean. He was astounded, but he ate the whole thing. At least my world view on one issue has yet to be challenged: the unquenchable appetite of a teenage boy.