Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Thursday Thirteen: contrasts of America(ns)

this list is purely based on my brief visit. so, apologies in advance if you find my observations a bit naive - to say the least. the reality is that everywhere i travel i cannot help to register all the contradictions, contrasts, oxymoron i note in my tingly brain. so here my *thursday thirteen* of today:
1. i have never seen so many obese people as in the USA as i have never seen so many fit people. for obvious reasons, obese average people prefer to travel by train rather than flying (they would not fit on the economy or premium economy seats unless they can afford first class). at the waiting lounge for the california zephyr there was an high concentration of large people. at 8am on a rainy saturday morning in chicago, along the michigan lake overlooked by the most impressive skylines a high number of sporty people were running/jogging while pushing racing prams, listening to music or leading their lazy dogs.
2. the cleanest streets in chicago and the many homeless in s. francisco. in the heart of the night i saw workers (mainly latinos) in chicago washing (not cleaning) the streets and replanting (!) public plants. i have never seen such a street care in london. at every corner of s. francisco you would see homeless people carrying their shopping trolley as snails carry their house.
3. abundant food portions and starving homeless in the streets. my best moment in frisco was to see the smile of a tramp when steve offered him our doggy bag containing truly italian pizza from a family-run pizzeria - one of the remaining legacies of the city's origin.
4. the most amazing organic supermarkets, such as wholefood (recently landed in london), in contrasts with the very well known fast food chains.
5. wireless technology was in flashy contrast with the breathtaking nature. in fact, we can say the the biggest contrast was to see crammed cities and dispersed houses in the vast countryside.
6. business men and hippie types of s. francisco.
7. extremely polite but extremely unflexible customer service.
8. modern skyscrapers and victorian looking houses.
9. plain skyscrapers facades and baroque tops. chicago looked to me as an elongated european city. you really need to walk with your nose up if you want to catch the wonderful details of each building.
10. ERRATUM: americans can be as much strong worshipers as much staunch atheists.
11. the best air service against retrograde trains (compared to european super-fast trains). our journey took 61 instead of 53 hours - a staggering eight hours of delay which was not too bad in the greater scheme of facts.
12. huge and powerful cars and strict driving limits. i loved driving once i got used to the non-existent gear as it is so easy and safe compared to the european roads.
13. we were in the wealthiest country in the world but we had to tip like in Egypt ("bakschisch, bakschisch, please"). at a restaurant we were reproached for not leaving enough tip. i had even to leave one dollar tip for each drink i ordered at the bar! i refused to tip the doorman every time he opened the main door of our hotel, but i saw other people doing it.

the rest was not much of a surprise. i grew up watching america on television and most of it looked familiar - a strange sensation, but one that i enjoyed as made me feel comfortable throughout. i hope to go back soon. next time i'll start from chicago to head into the wild west...
"mamma dammi cento lire che in America voglio andar"

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