The expat vacations in the USA

Being a stranger in my own country

Fireworks over Chicago skyline
Fireworks over Chicago skyline


It’s been 15 years since I celebrated the Fourth of July in the United States.

As you know, life circumstances have me living in Tropica, where occasionally groups of limpy lumpy gringos gather half heartedly on July 4, eat a hot dog and someone’s attempt at baked beans. No fireworks.  No dizzy celebration of summer since it is always summer in Tropica.

It’s fascinating for me to return to the USA and experience it with foreign eyes.  Overall impression is that things seem easy, fast, clean and that people take so much for granted.  They’re used to amenities that are just not available in developing nations.

Here are just a few observations on life in the U.S.A.

1.  The importance of fresh flowers.  In the tropics, the last thing I want in my house are flowers.  Tropical vegetation is so lush, so demanding, I don’t want more of it in my house.  Besides, it’s too hot.  Flowers bought in the morning look bedraggled by noon.  It was delightful to see amazing floral arrangements in malls, hotels, restaurants, private homes of course and even on the streets.

hotel flower retail-2


2.  While we’re on the subject.  American towns and cities have budgets for street landscaping.   I was thrilled by the manicured street scenes, especially the  elaborate floral plantings in public spaces.  Street meridians, corners, planters, house windows are designed for delight and manicured to the max.

chicago flowers flowers-in-chicago-street-val-oconnor


3.  In Chicago where I was, “normal” people use public transportation.  I loved living ecologically and inexpensively without a car, zipping around on the el and the excellent bus system.  In the third world, it is usually poor people who suffer with very bad public transportation.  Bad in terms of condition of the buses, usually no train lines at all, and bad in terms of routing.  Of course, Europe has the best public transportation that puts everyone to shame.

Chicago_El_Train el_bridge_in_chicago_by_ndcott-d4j4uy9

Chicago buses accommodate mothers with strollers.  Hallelujah!  The bus airlifts down, the mother wheels the stroller on board, the first row of seats lifts up to lock the stroller in place.  Wow.

4.  Customer service.  I was overwhelmed with the graciousness, the ease, the willingness to please the the customer queen: me.  As it should be.  People develop relationships with their SA’s, who call them for sales, get items, reserve items.  Lots of the work of finding something is done online, it is reserved for you and you go pick it up. Returns are painless.

Excellent customer service at Bloomies


5.  The variety of ethnic cuisines.  The general excellence of restaurants.

tank noodle
A bowl of Pho, please


Happy hour oysters at Shaw’s Crab House .  Great with a bloody mary.


Ramen at Strings


Of course we had to try what was voted Chicago’s best burger at Au Cheval.

au cheval2

au cheval
Yes, it was iconic.


6.  Seeing a melting pot of people — races, colors, creeds, nationalities, clothes.  Here in Tropica, you are either Tropican, or you are not.  And mostly, the people are Tropican.

7.  So many cultural activities.  Museums.  Theatre.  Baseball.

Art Institute of Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art
Steppenwolf Theatre
Wonderful theatre
Wrigley Field
Always a pleasure to see a game


7.  It was great to reconnect with Fourth of July celebrated the American way.  People dressed in their red, white and blue.  Barbecuing in the public parks, swimming at the lake, gathering for the fireworks.

8.  Fireworks!  From my 36th floor flat overlooking Lake Shore Drive I saw fireworks in every direction, being launched from every beach, every public park, every few minutes for a good 90 minutes.  It was swell.

Now I’m rearranging myself to take up my Tropican life.  This morning I came into the living room to find two dead green lizards, left for me by my pest control expert, my cat Panza. I found cockroach bites in the peaches I left out on the counter to ripen. Note to self:  Never buy peaches in Tropica…they are woody.  Never leave peaches out on the counter overnight.

Back to my Tropican reality!


Travel is a refreshing zing.   Gives you new eyes and energy.  The rest of the summer I’ll be happily on staycation.   Reading, writing and contemplating.  Redoing the blog.  Writing a novel.  Teaching ESL.

Thanks for taking the time to share my urban vacay with me!  What are you doing this summer?

xo Liza


Hello my lovelies.  Yes, I took a three week vacation from blogging, but I’m back!  Full spirited and ready to go into new directions.  Please leave your comments below.  As you know, the comments section is the most widely read section of any blog!  I’d love it if you like and share this post via the buttons below.  And if you haven’t already, enter your email at the top so you don’t miss a thing.


4 thoughts on “The expat vacations in the USA

  1. Liza dear. Back online today, and what a Joy to open up to your lovely photos and comments!
    You do have the talent and knack to express a “joie de vivre” wherever you are. Thanks for sharing with us. xxxooo
    Roberto – your not totally “gringo” pal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *