A summary of our 11 states in 12 days – what an ADVENTURE!
· DISCLAIMER: Bear in mind that, as the name of my blog site suggests, Life Through My Lens, this is MY impression of the adventure I choose to find in every day and may not reflect the views of the majority.
Setting aside the obvious political, racial and religious divisions in the USA, there is undoubtedly ONE unifying characteristic of this nation and that is their patriotism. It is evident in every state that we had the privilege and pleasure of travelling through in the number and size of their national flag, the good old Stars ‘n Stripes, which proudly and loudly flies and flutters from flag poles, both enormous and large! Along with their national anthem, which is loudly and proudly sung at all events, we only attended three, namely our daughter’s graduation ceremony and two NBA games.
The vastness of this country is only truly appreciated when driving the miles and miles (they do not use metric kilometres so don’t be fooled when on the road, looking at the distances indicated on the signboards!) Most states are the size of small European countries, each with its own rules and laws, which makes it all the more intriguing that they somehow manage these united states as a single country. I guess that this is also where the friction arises from, particularly on the political front.
Back to the country itself, the topography and geography of each state had a number of similarities that I was able to identify with, often I could have been driving through any number of provinces of South Africa: the vastness of much of Texas, New Mexico and Utah made me feel very much like our road trip through the Great and Small Karoo – barren, dry and flat; the eastern side of Kansas could easily be mistaken for the rolling green, grassy hills of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands; the extensive ploughed fields of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, brought back memories of the horizon-reaching fields of the Free State; much of the semi-arid areas of eastern Texas and western Utah are similar to the Eastern Cape; and the majesty of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, brought flashes of the mighty Drakensberg mountain range, from its southern regions beginning in the Western Cape, right through to its northern end in the Highveld.
Culture is a fascinating and intriguing aspect to global travel, none more so than in America.
One would have thought that since they speak English, albeit an “American dialect” of the Queen’s English, that the food and faith are familiar, that we would simply slot right into the ways of the people, right? After all, we are all well versed in the movie culture, what more could we need to know about being “one with the Americans”?
One would be wrong on most counts! The American’s are fiercely defensive about being separate from the rest of the world, or perhaps it’s a standing out from the rest of the world, by not complying with the metric system of measurement, weight and liquid calibration: miles, gallons, bushels, pints, quarts, dimes, quarters, yards, feet and more, make for interesting transacting for us Euro-Africans!
Add to the “old fashioned” measurements, the somewhat archaic banking practices: cheques are still written out AND even posted, making the deflective statement “the cheque is in the post” a reality, I kid you not!
Waiters, or servers as they are called here, are generally paid below the minimum wage, making tipping for their efforts mandatory. Be prepared to add anything from 15%-30% to the total on your bill, better known as cheque. Along with this hidden cost to your meal, so too is the price on any and every item in the shops NOT the price you pay. Sales tax is not included in the price you see on the tag as that will be added at the till/check-out/register. What is for free, and mostly does not even need to be requested, is bottomless glasses of iced water on being seated at a restaurant table. Now that is a great touch appreciated by those of us water guzzlers!
Second only to the patriotism of the people of America, is the culture of food, or rather, eating! The nation’s health challenges of obesity, diabetes and renal failure, can be attributed to their obsession with eating and I now know why this might be. For the more than 4500 miles of freeways/interstates and secondary roads that we drove, there are constant reminders to EAT!
Now I am fully aware of how many folks drive very long distances – second to the eateries are the motor vehicle, trailers and RV lots that line this incredible network of roads – but there is no denying the fact that, no sooner has one consumed one meal or travelling snack, but the signs bombard one again, reminding one that there is more food waiting to be consumed. This creates a mental awareness to eat, eat, eat, mostly before one has even finished the previous purchase.
This post may read negative vibes abounding, which is not my intention as the YOU in the united states is what makes this a genuinely GREAT country!
As Saffers, it is safe to say that anywhere in the world, one will usually stumble upon a fellow Saffer. For whatever reasons we have left our home of the southernmost country on the continent of Africa, our common DNA seems to magnetise us – perhaps its in the comraderies around the braai (bbq) fire, beer and boerewors roll in hand, giving us the opportunity to re-hash those “war stories”, that makes us feel a little closer to the land of our birth? This being the case, we have had the pleasure of sharing the homes of our generous countrymen and women who have fed, watered and washed for us, for which we are profoundly grateful.
Saffers aside, it is in the generosity, kindness and hospitality that we have experienced from the native Americans that has been memory making, to say the least. By the folk that we have only known for the past five years, we have been more than warmly welcomed, showered with gifts, lavished with love and all without expecting a single thing in return. The reaching out (another Americanism) that we have been blessed by, especially for our student athlete daughter, has at times been overwhelming. This selflessness is what I believe makes the American’s a GREAT nation of people.
We have been told, repeatedly, that its our accent that makes us intriguing – who would ever have thought that our “Jo’burg” “Durbs” or “Kaap” guttural, twang or drawl would cut it as AWESOME??! This has had us laughing out loud on many occasions – BTW, American’s also speak in acronyms, LOL, so brush up on the “lingo” before you embark on your own road trip adventure across this vast and varied land, Y’ALL!