New York snowbound and the end of the road....

Trip Start Jul 2003
Trip End May 2005

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Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Number 33 (8th March 2005 - 13th March 2005): New York snowbound and the end of the road....

'Round the world! There is so much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but where to does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.' (Moby Dick)

Snowblind and with frozen windscreen wipers we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. In most ways it's similar to London and other European capitals, but what really makes New York different are the strong ghettos which have blended at the edges to make it a fantastic place in which to travel around and eat. New York is made up of the five boroughs of The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island, all connected by very picturesque bridges strung between classic skyscrapers. We recommend the East Village in Manhattan, with bagel delis and shops such as 'The Bourgeois Pig' and 'Tattoos and Cappuccino' and a liberal scattering of Tibetans. Hendrix playing to a bunch of hippies in a park in Alphabet City would have made it perfect.

It's big and it's tasty: nobody can complain about the food in the USA. Carb counting and salad promotions abound, but everything is super-size and deep in mayonnaise, cheese, butter etc. In Asia we would eat several times a day and lose weight. Each time we eat here the scales are up. Sizes really have to be experienced. In a lonely spot in Oklahoma we had a locally smoked ham roll with more meat than most delicatessens actually stock. We kid you not, it was 10 inches high. In the same place a mother asked her small son what he wanted to drink. He pointed to a jug and said, "I want some of that". "No, no, that's just water," his mother replied, "what do you want to drink?"

We managed about 20 of the major food chains, and favoured the sourdough burger (Jack in The Box), pumpkin coffee (Starbucks) and a three quarter pound triple burger (Wendy's). Waffle House's maple syrup, bacon, egg and hashbrown breakfast took the top prize.

The USA is an amazing place. People we met in places like Iran and Pakistan dreamt about this country of complete freedom. Anything does seem to be possible. During TV adverts it's a game to work out whether they're promising debt reduction or weight reduction. They will guarantee happiness, legal wins, degrees in 5 minutes and softer stools. And you don't even have to leave your car for a shoe repair.

Everything in America exists in fiction, and in fact. It's like falling into 'Grand Theft Auto' or 'Whalley World'. Where else in the world could a town be called 'Truth or Consequences'?

The United States are a total mix of nations: they represent the whole world in one place. Each state operates with the independence of a western European country, and as a federation under huge flags flying everywhere the USA is incredibly successful. The row of customs' officers in Los Angeles demonstrated every human colour available.
Question: "What countries have you visited prior to your visit to the US?"
Answer: "Er, about 40. Some Middle Eastern. Our paperwork looks a bit complicated. We're from Britain"
Reply: "Wow! You guys must have had a great time!" "Next!"

We managed to find ourselves in some of the scariest, unsafest feeling places we've visited in the last 20 months. You can't go here after dark, you can't go here at all etc. We're neither for nor against the current Middle East situation, but with such a serious number of social problems at home, shouldn't these be resolved before getting involved with everyone else's? It's sometimes difficult to tell if the greetings received are quite as open as they initially appear. The super-friendly, standard greeting of, "Hi, how are you today?" appears to be generally rhetorical, with a return question often causing confusion. Silly comments/jokes don't usually get the laugh they deserve! There is no doubt, however, that at times the pleasantness of people here equals the nicest people we've met yet.

US facts
- All shootings happen in McDonalds
- There are no pavements, walking is not an option
- Instead of left and right, it's all north and south (tricky)
- In order to challenge the night-time driver there are no cats' eyes
- Hershey's is horrible chocolate
- There are always convicts on the run (don't pick up anyone)
- Americans don't do terraced housing
- Sporting goods means guns
- Don't go anywhere near a school bus
- If you've got ID you can buy booze anywhere (advert for a cold beer on gas pump whilst filling car)

Well, that's it. We've run out of countries in an easterly direction and so have followed several suggestions of, "you should come home".
We think we must have travelled about 30,000 miles by bus, train, foot, rickshaw and a selection of partially domesticated beasts. We managed to complete an eastwards circumnavigation through 40 countries and, if those container ships in Singapore had been a bit more charitable, almost made it all the way without flying.

It was very quiet when we arrived home; we didn't know what to do and couldn't remember where anything was or how it worked. Something called a 'chav' has been explained to us, as has something called 'chip and pin' (we looked liked a couple of pensioners in Tesco's trying to figure that one out). The seagull is an unusual bird, and everyone in the UK eats cheese sandwiches.

A few photos had been developed for us when we got back. It's very strange seeing us in stunning locations such as a ship breaking yard in Bangladesh or a temple in Burma. Because landscapes and people changed so slowly these places didn't look anything like that at the time. Most people have been extremely pleasant to us; it's a shame that folk from all over the world don't get out and about and speak to each other a bit more because they'd probably all get on if they actually met. It's strange how the most alike nations/religions seem to have the most to argue about, and it's definitely true that everyone is more similar than they are different.

Must dash, washing machine to plumb in.

See you on a bus to Samarqand (or in The Angel for a pint of Adnams),

Will and Emma

p.s. any employment suggestions for us from anyone?!?!

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