miércoles, 11 de enero de 2012

My 9 first impressions of USA

I spent Christmas and New Years Eve abroad. In United States to be exact. So that's partly the reason why I haven’t posted in a while. I came back to Caracas just a few days ago; and I’m still adjusting to the routine. In the meantime, this post comes as an unorganized list of my trip’ impressions. The reader must know that this is the first time I go to the US as an adult. Last time I went there I was only 9 and my parents took me to Disney; thus all my attention was given to that Cinderella Castle – not to cultural contrasts. In advance, I don’t have the slightest intention to be offensive to any culture. I have always like to read foreigners impressions’ on Venezuela so I thought it would interesting for you (if you are American, of course) to read the other side of the coin.
With all that being said, I’ll start:

1. First, the welcome. I know inmigration officers are just doing their job but my interview with one of them was just plain weird. He wasn’t completely disrespectful but he wasn’t nice either, and looked at me during the entire interview like I was doing something wrong. I know they deal with difficult cases, illegal inmigrants hard to caught etc. But I’m just a tourist, with all my papers in order, going there for a short visit, willing to spend some money which can’t hurt the country’ economy. He should at least say “Welcome”.

2. Putting that aside, I must say that all Americans were nice. The Customer Service must be rated 10. They have a service culture we should know better in Venezuela. I loved that the phrase “Custumer comes first” was true in every shop, cafe, restaurant I visited. Everyone said hi, everyone was willing to help me find exactly what I was looking for and if I did not find it, they inmediately called another store to check; and explained me carefully how to get there. Most of them were curious about my accent and recommended me places to visit while I was there.

3. As for food, I don’t know how to rate it. On one hand, I quickly became addict of Starbucks’ Frappuchino (the one that comes in a bottle and you find in pharmacies or supermarkets, not the one you buy directly at Starbucks), Crispy Cream Donuts, several ice creams, bagels and a long list of etcs. I was overwelmed by the variety of everything; from milk to cereals. The size of the supermarkets!. I could spend hours in a Wallmart. Really.
But most things tasted... weird. Like heavier- weird. Lettuce doesn’t taste like lettuce. And the same things I eat in Venezuela, felt much heavier and creamy in the USA. I ate a lot less than what I usually eat; and even so, my mom quickly noticed my extra pounds when she welcomed me back home. The food at restaurants was yummy, specially sea food but why in the world everything must have pepper?. Everything: potatos, soup, rice... with pepper!!! – The first three days I loved this pepper touch. After that, not so much.
On our final day, we found a Deli that claims to be “organic”. I quickly learned that “organic” means: “like the food I’m used to eat taste like” –Finally, after two weeks, lettuce tasted like lettuce. Thank God. We searched and there are a lot of “organic” places, from Delis, to restaurants and markets. Trouble is that some things are more expensive than non organic things. But I’m glad that like always, in the USA you have options for everybody.

4....Except for small. Everything was SO big. The food, the beverages... But nothing as big as coffee. USA’ regular coffee is the equivalent of Venezuela’ extra big coffee (that you rarely order). Our small coffee is like 25% the regular Starbucks. It’s crazy. My boyfriend and I ordered one regular Java Starbucks for both and we couldn’t finish it. And everyone around us was drinking Starbucks big size’ presentations with no trouble. Amazing. In a country filled with choices, “small” was rarely one of them.

5. The respect for the law. I thought that would make me uncomfortable but it really didn’t. Driving in the US is so easy because everyone seems to respect the rules. I never heard a single horn (I didn’t went to big cities either so that explains) during my entire trip. And I did not found the slightest deffect in the highways. Everything was clean and perfectly maintained. Everything looked like Lego City. All Stop signs pefectly painted, all houses looked like out of a movie. It was nice, beautiful, perfect. But at the end, I started to miss the total chaos that I'm just to live in.
Of course, when I got back, I was on my way to work and a little girl was throwing up next to me, a guy who was trying to get away of the scene almost hit me; the light was red and horns started to sound while two people were keeping a rather loud conversation. As I was recalling all the personal life details of those two strangers, while also staying away of the poor-little-girl scene; I thought “well, maybe I did not missed this chaos so much”.

6. The Clearance section of the stores. Plus the discounts. After one store or two, I learned the trick: to quickly discard the “new arrivals” and go directly to the back section of the store. My boyfriend could not get how I got out of Old Navy carrying a huge bag, huge smile and spending so little. And this shirt? 3 Dollars- And this one? 4 Dollars – And this sweater? Oh, that was “expensive”, it costed me 10 Dollars. It was crazy. I know everyone knows this but I was never able to witnessed first hand before. I could never afford buying this much in Venezuela. Which is kind of sad.

7. The wood houses. I felt weird in every house I visited. The walls were so thin, so weak. I spend a couple of nights in one house where the floor creaked every time I walked to the bathroom. It was uncomfortable. You could hear the snores of every single room. Wood houses are definitely prettier. Like Lego-like prettier. But if Americans love privacy and personal space and all those things so much, why they would choose to live in houses where everyone knows when you are walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night? - No one ever talks about it, and everyone thought my childlike assertions about this issue were funny. I still find it non sense.

8. The cold. I have never felt this cold in my life. But I quickly learn that it was all about wearing proper clothes and covering myself like a South Park figure. "But it is not thaaat cold, Kenny" - My boyfriend said, laughing at every time I covered myself with scarfs and hats to get out. So the good news is that I survived my first little short winter. The bad news is that I didn't got to see the snow. They announced some snow at the weather channel and I stayed up like a 5 year old, looking at the window, waiting for some drops. It did not rain and Christmas were gray instead of white.

9. Last but no least. No Chavez. No Bolivarian Revolution. The houses had no walls or fences which gave every street a prettier and more relaxed look. I quickly fell for that odd feeling of being safe. It was good to take a break from all that I'm used to. To walk at night.

To take my camera everywhere with no fear. It was a nice and more than needed rest. Specially when I think about this New Year and all that it comes: MY WEDDING (Did I said that out loud?), new and more demanding projects at work, plus presidential elections. It’s going to be intense. But I promise to blog about it whenever I can.

And Happy New Year to you all!!!.