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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Washington - NYC - Salt Lake City

Hey y'all,

Some quick shots from a recent work trip to the States. Managed to catch up with some good friends in Washington and NYC - (Antonia - thanks for taking me out on U street. Lucie La Gentille - Merci de m'avoir hebergé et mercy à Camille aussi d'avoir supporté mes renflements!).

It was a fly-by visit. But it was great to get out of Australia for a little while and remember that there's a big old world out there and that, everywhere, there's someone getting on with the business of living.

Things learned on this trip:
  1. It's scary how similar Washington feels to Canberra. It's a public service town with interesting work that attracts a certain type of person. There's a desolation to the streets after 8pm that reminded me of home. People ride bikes everywhere and people say things like, "I like New York as a place to go on weekends, but I'm not sure I could live there you know? I mean... I canoe on weekends now!" 
  2. Tap beer in Salt Lake City is legally required to be less than 4% alcohol. It's like a town with only light beer on tap. The horror. 
  3. Americans come in for a fair amount of external criticism. Stereotypes abound that they are stupid, vain, lacking culture, fat, lacking in any sort of global perspective and shallow. As with all stereotypes, if you spend more than five minutes with someone, they turn out not to be true. Although I did have a few interesting experiences, (like when someone asked me if I was irish (what?), there were many times where I thought that we (Australians) might do well to learn from the American stereotype. For example, I met a  man who literally exploded with excitement at how cool he thought Washington was and how lucky Washingtonites were to live in a city with so many great culinary delights. I tried hard to imagine an Australian showing a foreigner around Sydney Harbour and being as excited about the beauty of Sydney. I doubt it would happen. Instead I think an Australian would probably wait for the foreigner to say, "this is  amazing" and then reply, "yeah… it's alright I guess", which is a little sad.  I mean, why not be excited? Being apathetic might mean you never risk being vulnerable, but there was something endearing about this overly-excited American man. He loved his city. Sure, there may be better places in the world, but he loved it nonetheless. He put his opinion out there and was proud. 
  4. New York - I don't get it. Everywhere is a line, nothing is discovered for the first time, everyone has done it before you, people work long hours, apartments are expensive and small, there's a constant sense of needing to prove your better than everyone else you meet, and yet, when it came time to go, I was not ready. 
  5. Australian print media is shithouse. I worry about the breadth and depth of news that is available to the average Australian. Every morning I read the paper: The Wall Street Journal, THe Washington Post or the New York Times. It wasn't just the selection of stories that was broader - raining from stories on the nuclear weapons deal with Iran to in depth analysis of the anniversary of the Gettysburg address - the writing was vastly superior too. On arrival back in Australia I did a quick check of the front page of the Daily Telegraph. The headlines read: Dr Harry's tragic loss; Dannii v Kylie - Talent Show Sister Act; Mauled - Australia Zoo Attack; and a small story titled Grins of the Father, about a Bishop who smiled during the royal commission hearing into child sex abuse. Over on page 18, the world news section included two stories about how a bikini removal caused a car crash in New York, and a story on a Parisian couple who had carried out a suicide love-pact.


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