Observations of a non-American visiting Boston – Travels,tidiness and trash

I read Americanah, written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer. In the novel, the leading character, Ifemelu, writes a blog: Observations by a non American Black.
Inspired by the idea I want to write a few blogs while I’m here in Boston, visiting my father-in-law Chris, titled: Observations of a non-American visiting Boston. Let’s see what I come up with. I’m writing in English so my American family can read it as well…(do I really want that?)

Traveling with Americans is always relaxed. They communicate easily and are usually interesting to talk to. This is probably a generalisation, but so far it is my experience and I have traveled here for almost 40 years now. My fellow passenger waiting for our delayed plane in Dublin was a real traveler ‘American style’. He had traveled far and wide around the world, always in the form of bustrips or cruises. A cruise along the Yangtze in China for three weeks, a bus tour through eastern Europa in two weeks, a bus tour in India, now he just returned from a two week trip through Italy, by bus. He was tired, he said. It was a lot to take in, in a short time. I told him we Dutchies joke about American tourists like him, “doing Europe in a week”. He laughed and admitted it was probably their lack of patience to stay put somewhere longer than a couple of days. When you cross the ocean you want to see it all. Probably it’s also related to the way vacations get organised, trying to overcome language barriers. Americans speak only English (or Spanish) so to get around they feel safer on a tour. The gentleman I talked to was from Greek/Albanian descent, but didn’t speak the language.

After a long wait and a lot of speculating and joking around about the source of the delay troubles, we finally boarded and flew without any further problems to Boston.

Our plane crew was Irish, so no observations on their Americanness. I watched three American movies, which turned out to be very good. The Homesman, You’re not you (bad reviews, but I thought it pretty good), and I forgot the third one, probably wasn’t any good after all.

Walking around the neighborhood today, I enjoyed watching the busy streets and parks. It’s Memorial Day weekend (no Pentecost days here) and everybody is out to enjoy the first balmy weather. Shorts, tanktops, skirts and dresses, everybody is determined to get some sun! I noticed very short skirts and dresses, on sometimes very chubby girls. Not very becoming.

I noticed with great delight the absence of DOGPOOP! Nowhere to be found. Why I ask, why is it that in our so called ‘clean and well organised’ country we cannot seem to solve that filthy problem? Why do Americans clean up their mess and we don’t?

As a non-American I miss a place to sit down with a cup of coffee. Oh, I know there are dozens of Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and what not, to pick up a gallon of coffee, but I miss the sitdown places where coffee is served in porcelain cups, accompanied by a small coockie. I would like to know what the amount of waste is in one single day in the city of Boston. Waste of only the take away plastic or paper coffee cups. The ‘take out’ culture in America is so deeply ingrained that I wonder if that could ever be changed.

Greeting in stores is something I have learned to handle over the years. But today’s  greeting at the local supermarket left me speechless: Wassup? I know the expression (short for What’s up?), but what is the appropriate answer? I mumbled something like: I’m good..but felt very foreign.

I see many people of Asian, Indian or South American descent, but no Muslim people. At least not recognizable by headcovering.

Loving the outdoors on a beautiful day is universal: many families were out enjoying the sights and having fun!


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