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US adventures 2009

US 2009 Adventure

USA | Sunday, 16 August 2009 | Views [207]

Everyone says there's culture shock every where you go. Sure enough, I had the shock of my life. Not really about culture but about how easy it was for me to blend in. I don't have an accent, or a very faint accent that seems indistinguishable (or so I was told), and I look like all the locally born Asians around. The only thing that made me stand out were

1, if they asked me where I was from because I asked a question that all local's are supposed to have known the answer to, and then they're surprised that I'm just visiting the US and its my first time.

2, I stare a lot. Since its all new to me, I love to look at all things that are similar yet different.

3, I walk around with a camera slung over my shoulder.

4, if I don't have my camera, then I lug around a backpack that's bigger than your usual everyday pack.

5, I sometimes walk around with a map / look at the map at the bus stop.

6, I run or walk real fast when I see a car stopping for me to cross the street. You see, in China, you play dodge ball with the cars that cross. If you want to cross the street, even on the pedestrian lane, even with the lights green for you to cross, you have to stop for the car first. Cars are a priority here. But apparently in the US, Pedestrians who step on the crosswalk, or on the street, come first. They will stop for you and wait patiently for you to cross. I'm not used to that and I don’t like people waiting for me to cross so I jog or walk fast to get across. This is so obvious because this one guy even called me out when I was crossing. He said "Oh you don't have to run, Honey. Take your time." :D

I just fell in love with the country, it's roots and its multi-cultural culture. There's so much to see and do and go. Traveling around the US is easy as you can get everything you need, map, information, etc, online. The only thing that would be hard for a traveler is the cost it would take to travel from 1 place to another. Unless you're willing to go for super frugal travel, which means thumb your way around, then you need to find a travel route that would best suite the depths of your money bank. :) I got to travel via plane, train, bus and car.

I forgot that I was traveling in the US 'coz I was so used to traveling in China. In China, you take a map with you and as much as possible, know where you are going to so you don't have to ask for directions. The reason being is 1, they might direct you to run around in a circle before you get to your location, 2, they don't know the place you are going to, 3, they don't understand you, and 4, you don't understand them. :D I was talking to my American friends about the mishaps, and the wrong turns, or wrong buses or places I got lost in, and one of them scolded me and said "You idiot! Why didn't you ask for directions?" Then in my most innocent and why-didnt-i-think-of-that look, I said "Why didn't I think of that?" hehehe... It was fun though. I would have made less turns and walked a LOT LESS if I would have asked directions but hey, I really didn't think of that. There were also lots and lots of Signs. This country is a country of SIGNS!

It was a short but hectic schedule that I gave myself. A total of 16days and 4 different parts of the country. 4 days in the Mid-west in the city of Springfield, MO. It was the best decision I have ever made as this formed my impression of the US. The people in this city are very nice and sweet and warm. I love it and would love to settle down here. It was peaceful and relaxing and an place to just hang out and sit on your porch and watch the clouds in the sky move. The couple we stayed with just opened their home for us and hospitably accommodated us (my bride and groom friends, and me). Running around the city trying to do errands with my distraught bride friend and my Im-just-following-her groom friend, was fun. To poorly arranged flowers at an alarmingly expensive price to a great bargain for a wonderful personally arranged set that includes, the bride's bouquet and the rest of the entourage.

Moving on, my next 4 days were spent around Upstate New York. Arriving in Buffalo, NY to meet up with my Canadian couple friend and Pennsylvania couple friends were fun. 2 couples, 2 cars and only 1 me. We decided to split up after dinner and leave 1 car in the hotel I will be staying so we only need to take 1 car and see the falls at night. With no battery in my cell phone (no way to get the number of the other couple friend) as the couple friend I'm with does not own a cell phone (yes, he & she does not have one, seriously), a  GPS system that thinks I'm in Irvine, CA instead of, Niagara Falls, NY (so the instructions go a long way, to even passing Las Vegas and Chicago), a hint of a memory of the hotel name I was staying in, and a physical map that they got at a convenience store, we almost got lost, late at night, in Niagara Falls, NY. :D But we got through.

The falls were Magnificent! It was amazing!

The rest of the days were spent driving up to Syracuse, NY with my CND friends. Driving around the country side in NY was a sight to see. Farms and Farms all around, even some Amish people. Cornfields and Cow milking facilities are not a rare sight to see. The couple I spent time with were like little kids and we kept laughing at each other's silliness and quirkiness. Time spent with them were priceless. I will definitely spend more time with them in the future.

This was also the first time I had a chance to do laundry the privileged way. I hate doing laundry and feel like this is a chore because you had to hang them up and wait for them to dry, then carefully fold them so it won't be crumpled. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind doing that chore but its still a chore. So I went down to the hotel reception to ask where the laundry room was and get some quarters for it. So I took my sweet time to read the instructions on the washer and put my clothes in. Put the quarters in the coin slots and pushed it in. Pressed on the On button and off it goes. Then waited for it to finish then transferred the clothes into the dryer. Now, the Dryer is the best thing that happened to laundry! The clothes came out warm, soft and fluffy. Ready to wear in 45mins. I just loved it. When I settle down somewhere permanently, I'm buying my own Dryer! This is what we don't have in China/Philippines. Dryers are rare machines that only some people can afford. It's not that we need dryers in the Philippines where everything is hot and your clothes can dry out within 2hours if its under the sun, but in China where winter gets cold, they should have one that is standard to an apartment. I would totally love doing laundry and not think that it's a chore at all.

The next 8 days were spent in the west of the US. The first 4 days were in San Francisco. As usual, the friend who was supposed to meet me, got his times messed up. Every time anything has to do with me, he always messes up the time. :) I was not told how cold San Francisco can be, so thinking that my summer clothes will be enough, I had on a skort, off shoulder shirt and my flip-flops. No-No. Its a good thing I brought my light jeans jacket but it still was not enough. I did not have enough time to sort through my luggage for the only jeans that I brought with me so I got on and off the BART system in my summer outfit. The first thing that I was told was not to stare at people, but you can't help but stare at how unique and unusual people dress, act and move. Everything is so familiar, and yet so different.

My first taste of SF was Mission Street. Getting off, you immediately smell that pungent marijuana stench. I thought there was a dead skunk in the middle of the escalator towards the street, so I asked my friend why there's a dead skunk smell. He then said, that's not a skunk smell, its someone smoking pot. Then once you're up in the streets, you're immediately surrounded by prostitutes, addicts, bums, homeless people, musicians, and other quirky, gangsta people. :) Don't get me wrong, I did not see each one of them coz my friends shuffled me out of there as quickly as they could, saying "This is not the place to take out your camera or stare at those people. Move quick." I did however, see a store that says "Thai Mexican store. Anything that's Thai and Mexican, you can get them here."

San Francisco is a city "City". It felt like Singapore except more unorganized. Signs are not as directly pointed out as they would be in Singapore. I took the bus, tram, train to where ever I go around the city. It was convenient. Buses weren't as full as the buses here in China, or maybe because I took it off rush hours, but hey, its still nice and clean. This city is conducive to walking and Lots of people walk around. To be honest, walking is ok with me, but I'd rather drive, if you know what I mean. I walked from Union Square to SF MOMA. From Pier 39 to Fisherman's Wharf to Ghirardelli square. Then the next day, I took the Cable car ride to Lombard street and walked down the crooked street and to a bus stop to get to Marina Square where I walked along the coast to the Golden Gate bridge. It's just unfortunate that the bridge, by some miracle, was the only one that was covered by the Fog, everything else was bright and sunny.

I was told by all the locals that it's a very rare good day that the bridge will show itself and I just had the misfortune to get there on a day where its Fog time. Anyway, that was just half of the walk that I did. I continued on to the Exploratorium and felt like I was in the Roman era. I did not go into the museum but did walk through the park beside it. I felt like I was a Grecian princess walking around my Roman/Grecian garden. It's a famous wedding venue and I was fortunate to see that there's one that’s going to be held that afternoon.

Moving on, I walked over to find a restaurant to eat in and take a bus ride down to town. Chinatown was a sight to see. I originally planned to get off and walk around but the bus was packed to the brim with tourists like me and the streets were packed as well. I just stayed on and got off at Union Square pick up my friend at his work place so we could go to watch a performance that evening. We were a bit late so we had to RUSH to the venue, and man, speed walking ain't my thing. Then we had the hole-in-the-wall Mexican food which was Yummy!. It was your mom and pop shop that was oh so good. Of course, the servings and portions are humongous as well, but I'm so surprised to see how these THIN people I'm with, stuff all of that into their tummies. I had half of a burrito and I was stuffed and they had a burrito and a quesadilla at that. I guess its all the walking that keeps them fit and be able to stuff all that food into their scrawny bodies.

With 2 days of ultimate walking, I opted out on another walking tour to just spend a day in and do some needed laundry. So I went up and down to do the laundry, fell asleep on the couch while watching some TV show while waiting for my friend to pick me up so we can drive to Irvine in time for an appointment I have the next day. My friend arrived with only himself in tow. No car. He was not able to rent a car for us to drive out. So we had to look into other means and ways to get to Irvine in a few hours. So we booked the Amtrak bus and train to get to LA, then we booked a car rental in LA for the next four days. We took the overnight bus to Santa Barbara and switched to Train to arrive at 8AM in Union Square. Claimed our nice little Toyota Matrix car and drove out to Irvine for the appointment. Thank heavens for GPS systems where we just key in where we want to go and viola, turn here turn there we go. It was so convenient! After the appointment I had, we drove to the nearest mall to stroll about and see what we can shop for and off to my cousin's place where we will be crashing the night.

We went to Laguna beach that night to have the most scrumptious $10 meal of steak that I have ever had. The portion was still larger than what I'm used to but the price is way cheaper than anywhere else I have been to. Since we did not have enough sleep on the bus/train that morning, we went home early and went to bed. The next few days became the busiest days of the trip.

Once we got up, we packed a few stuff into a smaller bag and off we went to the discounted motel we found. They had a "2-free-Zoo-tickets" promotion if you called ahead to book a room with them. So we called them and told them we will book the room and will be there in 45mins. It was a nice motel and a Howard Johnson subsidiary of some sort. We dropped off our bags, claimed our Zoo tickets and off we went to San Diego Zoo. There was so many things to do in the zoo and so many sights to see.

Our goal, my friend and I, was to see everything the Zoo had to offer. Go through every part of the zoo and see as much as everything as we could. That goes the same for Sea world and Disneyland in the days to come. The best part of the Zoo was the Polar Bear exhibit. I could stay there for hours and hours. I think we spent more than 30mins just at that location. These polar bears were huge and healthy and beautiful. SD Zoo did a very good job in keeping them very very healthy. By the end of the day, we were exhausted and went to the motel for a quick shower and rest. Then we drove to Gas Lamp district to see what's SD has to offer at night.

Rows after rows of restaurants, bars, clubs as far as your eye can see. It's one of the oldest street in SD and well taken care of. We had dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant and went to a jazz club afterwards. If only I had more battery in my system, I would have loved to stay longer and listen to up and coming artists and musicians around. Unfortunately, I was lulled to sleep during one of the marvelous saxophone playing I have ever heard. :D No pun intended.

Next day, we went for brunch and headed straight for seaworld. Sea world was bigger than the zoo but does not have as much of different things to see than the zoo. Seeing Shamus, or "Free Willy" as I call them, the killer whale show was great, watching the Sea Lions mocking them was even better. After staying so late for the last show, we drove for an hour and a half back to Irvine for a nights' rest. Disneyland was up the next day and we were raring to go. As soon as you get through those gates, it is a whole new world and another world. I have to applaud Disney for their effort in making every single little detail match every single area of their world. It is really Disneyland! I loved every single minute I was in there and would love to stay there longer!

Last day was saved for LA and Hollywood. It was supposedly to remember the US as what Hollywood portrays it to be but I did not have as much fun as I thought I would. First up was the traffic. By golly, its supposed to only take 1hour from Irvine to downtown LA but it took us 4hours to get there. There was traffic on the freaking Freeway. It's a freeway and there's still traffic?!? The town itself was not as impressive as I thought it would be. We went up to the Hollywood sign first, to get it over with, then we went through town and see Beverly hills, Rodeo Drive, Walk of Fame and the Famous Chinese Theater where most of the Blockbuster Premiers were done. Maybe because our mood was already in a downturn and we're rushing for time to get my friend to Union Square for his train back to SF, that made LA seems unimpressive but I still think that it's not all it's hyped up to be. I wasn't impressed with the tall buildings, and famous locations and sights to see. Maybe if I had more time and walked the streets more, then I would be able to enjoy it a lot. Next time. There's always a next time.

But before I come back to this part of the country, I would coast NYC down to Houston, Texas first. Get ready, America, Cowgirl me is coming to town! Yeeehaaw!

Cheers to the next Adventure!

 

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