Revisiting my life in America…

I’ve decided to do something slightly unconventional and re-post some old blogposts I wrote in 2010 from when I went to live and work in America for six months. I want to do this as it was easily one  of the best experiences of my life and a time I learned a lot. And, I have a pile of amazing photos I want to post in an album on my website, but I need to set some context first!

So here goes, blog post from 6 November 2010:

Okay so i have 1 day left in the states and i was thinking, what will i tell people when they ask “How  was America?” or “What was it like?”…

Camp America (@ YMCA Camp Jewell)
The absolute best time of my life, so far. Firstly, if you love working with kids, then you MUST do Camp America – it’s just too good and you get far more out of it than you could imagine. Secondly, if you do, then try to work at Camp Jewell, which is the awesome camp that i was lucky enough to work for. You will meet some seriously great people and be in such a beautiful place. (I cannot praise this place highly enough – just trust me on it!)

Trek America (Canadian Pioneer)
Like getting bunched with a small group of random people from all over the world? The trek in Canada was FANTASTIC – it was a very well-organised, flexible, and exciting trip where i met some of the most interesting and funniest people, and did some slightly ridiculous but utterly fun things all the way across Canada. And if you ever get the opportunity to choose your trek leader, ask for Ann!

Whether you are careering around the city with a flock of friends, sometime-after-midnight, or taking a leisurely stroll through Quincy Market with family, then Boston is a big, beautiful city with a bounty of things to discover. I think i like Boston so much as a) it was the first American city i was able to explore and b) because although it is big, it is quite clean, tree’ed, and has lots of lovely ‘college’ campuses to visit (unlike, for example, NYC).
New York City (the supposed Liberty City)
Okay, at the risk of offending some of my American (and maybe non-American) friends, my description of NYC that follows is perhaps a little harsh (but also quite true). Two words: filthy and smelly. Now, i know it is a “big deal” going to New York, but honestly, i only found a few gems (Morimoto japanese restaurant, Chelsea Markets) in a whole lotta hype (i.e., everything else). It’s seen as “exotic” and “glamorous” to go to New York, but why? I’ll tell you – it’s because we think it’s “exotic” and “glamorous”. Sure, you can watch a movie set in New York to see what it’s like, but if you want someting more accurate, try checking out Grand Theft Auto IV. (You know, with all that said, i did love NY from the documentary-photographic angle. And, don’t get me wrong, i had an utterly awesome time there too!)
Washington, D.C.
I know it’s all you ever hear about when going to D.C., but the museums are FANTASTIC. Spend hours and hours staring glassy-eyed at a model neanderthal or gazing in amazement at the ceiling of Library of Congress.The city is also particularly good if you’ve read Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, as you can almost lose yourself in the masonic history of the place. Dupont circle and George Washington’s homestead are great, and so long as you keep out of the ghetto north-east quadrant of the city, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the unexpectedly high crime rate.

Chicago  wasn’t what i was expecting. Admittedly, my expectations were probably 80-90 years out of date, as i was expecting gangsters and the fruits of the prohibition to be abound, but that’s just what i’d read, you know? Anyway, i suppose i really liked Chicago as it reminded me of a bigger Brisbane, only colder. The leafy streets were gorgeous. The metro line was like a theme-park ride. And bike riding along Lake Michigan sure is a good way to feel better about all that food you’ve been eating while you’ve been over here.

Austin, TX
Known for “keeping it wierd”, this is probably not the place to come if you want to go on a holiday getaway, but heck, it sure is an interesting experience if you’re visiting friends. Trailriding western-style at Cheryl’s barn was definitely the highlight of the trip, but it was also just a lot of fun exploring downtown Austin and marvelling at all the steakhouses, handlebar moustaches, quirky bars and the eclectic music scene (i managed to complete my TV on the Radio CD collection).
San Francisco
The SF experience for me was one of eating fresh dungeness crab out of the shell, clinging frozen to the side of a Market St tram, eating local Californian cheese and drinking cider in Sonoma Valley (i wish i could say i drank wine, but you know how they are here), and biking my way across the Golden Gate bridge. Of the three times i went here, SF offered something new each time – whether it be crazy weather, a bison paddock in the center of the city, or a beggar scaring ungenerous tourists and passersby with a broken eucalyptus branch. It’s a pretty diverse and very cool place to go.

The movie Into The Wild is probably one of my favourites, as is the book. I know Yosemite National Park was not at all featured in either, but i could understand both a lot better from being out there. The mountains/valleys are massive and you can really feel them drawing you in. I loved it.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”John Muir
Las Vegas
 If you want a holiday, i’d definitely recommend coming here. Why? Because in all the other American Cities I was too busy just trying to “live” whereas here, everyone’s on holiday (heck! i mean, so are you!) and relaxed and enjoying themselves, so you find that you can too. Whats more, there is so much money here that you can actually appreciate clean footpaths, good food, cleaner air, few beggars, and, of course, the glorious themed hotels & casinos along the Strip. And, if you’re getting sick of carrying around that heavy wallet of yours, then don’t worry, because by the end of your stay here it will be light as a feather! 

Los Angeles
The first two words that popped into my head on arriving in L.A.  were “glorified Logan”. Now, if you live anywhere near Logan City, QLD, then you’ll have a better idea of what i mean here. Basically L.A. is a whole lot of ghetto suburbs. There are “Green Doctors” and botox clinics abound. And the traffic is terrrrrible. However, it really wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be. We were lucky enough to be staying in the only hotel on Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills (coincidentally, this is the most expensive place to shop in the world) and therefore our area was extremely beautiful. A good friend of mine said she’d kill me if i saw a celebrity – i’m still alive but i’m pretty sure we passed a few (not that i would know too well anyway) and i am almost 100% certain i saw Eugene Levy (two-left feet in Best in Show) at dinner on our last night here. Santa Monica and Venice beach were fantastic for shopping & eating, by the way, and you could really see the vegan/gypsy culture shine through…

Coastal Roadtrip L.A. to San Francisco
Somehow, we managed to leave one of the best parts ’til last – winding our way through Malibu, Santa Barbara, Carmel, Monteray, Santa Cruz, and Big Basin on Route 1.  One of the problems we have often found with america is aptly summed up by my mother, who said “The problem with America is just that sometimes there are too many Americans!” and it’s true as sometimes it is simply so hard to escape the massive cities. However, when you do, such as on this beautiful drive, it is just so worth it. Among the gorgeous rugged mountains and coastal scenery, one of the highlights was staying at the Redwood Croft B&B in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where we were treated with a jacuzzi under the stars, an exquisite loft to sleep in, a full and delicious cooked breakfast (with real tea!), and all set in the midst of a towering redwood grove. A perfect end.

okay. well. i don’t know where it goes from here. it’s funny how you get so used to living one thing, that it becomes so hard to change. i want to go home, but i don’t want to leave. summer has barely ended yet i am already so nostalgic for it.

America is, and was, something else.

Original post:


One thought on “Revisiting my life in America…

  1. Lauren Stephenson says:

    hi E, It was fabulous to read all this again and see the photos. I will print it out and frame it! lots of love mum

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