We got to USA some three weeks ago. At the customs we were warmly welcomed by a nerve wrecking scary lady questioning our every answer, in the good old Gestapo style: “Why were you in China? Why are you not staying in a hotel? What are you doing in Topeka? Visiting a relative? What is SHE doing in Topeka?!” The hundred or so questions were accompanied by an ice cold stare and “you guys are SO lying and even if you haven’t lied yet, you WILL lie, and I WILL catch you” oozing from her.
|This little hippie went to San Francisco|
Our first stop was California, where we rented a car at the San Francisco airport. We stayed the first few days at a holiday rental with a very nice family in Pacifica. Although we have been favoring public transportation the whole time, we must admit, without a car it’d have been if not impossible, at least damn near to get around. My Nokia Lumia’s GPS turned out to be irreplaceable, as well. The country is absolutely not designed for pedestrians. San Francisco bay area favors bicycle riders, but other than that, getting anywhere by foot would be suicide. Or at least as scary as US customs.
Our rental car took us to some pretty exiting places, like the Redwoods Big Basin park, Target and BART station. Rental bicycles took us to the Golden Gate Bridge, and gave us a good day’s exercise for 30 km by the coast of San Francisco.
|A vegan dog.|
If there ever was an opposite of the hipster-hippie-vegan-nature lover-super slim and sport friendly California, that’s Topeka, KS. Nothing but fast food joints, cars and big, mean dogs everywhere. At least that’s the impression one gets before getting to know the people. The truth is, once again, that the majority of the people are smart, intelligent, fun and well-meaning. Especially the ones who invite you to their graduation party, and give you a ride home and help you out and have a magician in their party and give you food and let you use their broom and take you shooting and have made a certain little sister’s life super fun while in Topeka, are in our list of awesome new people we've met ;)
We in Europe are being drowned with American clichés in movies, TV shows and news. Sadly, lot of them are true. You cannot see overweight people driving their "little" electric vehicles around supermarket while shopping for soda, ice cream and pizza in Asia, or such irresponsible drug advertising in Europe. When a pacemaker ad is masked as news broadcast, or a prescription only antidepressant marketed by a funny cartoon character, something has gone wrong. The news here cover important topics such as what the baby sitter of a baby of a suspected victim of a horrible yet very private crime has to say about the case. Also, calling the European parliament elections as “European elections” is not only misleading, but sadly shows how ignorant even the media here is. Europe is not a country, like the US. European Union consists of several, independent countries. FYI...
|Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.|
And why, oh why is an entire nation force fed with humongous portions of absolutely nutrition-free, cheap, sodium and sugar loaded fa(s)t food? To sell more diabetes, blood pressure and weight loss drugs?
|Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos.|
After binge eating (yes, the American diet got us) and soaking in beer for a week in Topeka, we headed to New York and our next stop, a Caribbean cruise; 8 nights of sailing and trying to avoid any activity that would actually cost something on Carnival Splendor. With a last minute discount deal Ari found online, that was still a cheaper option than the original idea of going to Mexico. Food and a lot of entertainment were luckily included and the free flow of pizza and ice cream was accompanied by a running track, big gym, and hours of ashore walking in San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk. The other activities were took part in were watching stand up, sleeping at random hours and smuggling cheap vodka from ashore.
|Times Square, NYC|
Seeing how amazingly rudely the ship staff was treated by the passengers, we found it more than justified to leave our cleaner a tip every. Other than that, the American tipping system is quite ridiculous, inconsistent, makes no sense and is just as stupid as not including taxes in the price. How about paying people enough and being honest about the final price of a product or service and tipping only for remarkably good service? Another suggestion concerns the health care system. The country has all the resources to effectively take care of its citizens, yet still the system just does not work. The walk-in clinics, access to the most state of the art drugs and top health care professionals are not something every country could boast of having. How about making them available to everyone?
After the cruise we headed back to New York, where we had two tasks: see as many tourist attractions as possible in two days, and meet the Finnish guy we had ran into by accident in the subway day before the cruise. He helped us to get on the right train and we promised to get in touch after getting back. In the end, we found ourselves drinking coffee and talking about Finland and USA and everything between in a cafe in the Trump Tower. We also got to visit his office in Manhattan, as well as an introduction to life in New York from a Finnish point of view. Turns out it is a small world, there's a whole bunch of people with connections to Finland even in the place he works.
|"Dum-Dum" at the American Museum of Natural History|
Sadly, all the good adventures must come to an end. It’s time to continue our journey back home, just three more weeks left. Next: Reykjavik, Iceland, and time to wear warm clothes again.
P.S: Spotting random Finns has now proceeded to getting bicycle fixing help in San Francisco and finding a personal guide to the subway system in New York. Nordic walkers spotted in India, China and US.