Being a stranger in my own country
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.
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.
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 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.
5. The variety of ethnic cuisines. The general excellence of restaurants.
Of course we had to try what was voted Chicago’s best burger at Au Cheval.
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.
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.
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?
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.