American revelation

Picture it. July 4, 2010. Perpignan, France. A young American woman sat in her apartment doing homework and waiting to change her laundry. After a few emails to her family and friends who were enjoying the parades and fireworks at home, she couldn’t help but think, “Is this really the way I should be spending my Fourth of July?”

I was that young American woman, and I was ready for a change of scenery. So I joined my colleagues for a rugby match between the local Catalans Dragons and their English guests, the Wigan Warriors.

Dragons Catalans

The Catalan Dragons

Rugby buffs swarmed the buses and sidewalks. Warrior enthusiasts chanted (in English!) and pounded their fists in the air. They sported red and white striped paraphernalia. It was apparent they were ready for some serious rugby.

At the stadium, we wove through crowds from one side of the field to the other until we found our correct seats. Feisty fans lined the fences and filled the stadium, roaring at the action on the field. Clusters of kids in rugby uniforms cheered, possibly hoping to be Dragons themselves one day.

I couldn’t help but get into the spirit of the game. Their pride was contagious. Even though I didn’t know either team, the aura felt so familiar. For a second, I forgot I was in another country, despite the lack of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I felt at home on the Fourth of July, even though I was thousands of miles away. Although “Team America” wasn’t on the scoreboard that day, an American in the Perpignan stands realized national pride follows you wherever you go.