America as I saw (Part III)

THE LARGE FORMAT

As soon as I landed in America, as obvious, I started looking around and I saw large format of almost every thing. Huge buildings, higher than the monuments, Broader than broad roads, huge trucks with huge tyres and huge or you can say well built people. I was told that the people here are very much obese as they grow up eating a lot of cheese and colas. Companies in their vested interests offer almost free cokes and burgers to children and then they become addicted.  Obesity has become a type of epidemic here.

 

 

As I explored more there were huge stores and I came to know almost all of them were chain stores. Let us talk of the Home Depot. It is a chain store present all over America in almost all cities. Starting from timber to paint to upholstery to furnitures to plumbing materials to screws to electricals to flooring to plants to garden accessories, you name it and it is there. That too in different varieties and all possible sizes. You want to complete your house – enter The Home Depot and come out with every thing which may be required for it. Every thing is DIY (Do it yourself). You may also buy all types of instruments required for fitting. Some big instruments and machines which you may not want to buy are also available on rent. In IKEA or The Home Depot or all other stores where furnitures are sold they are packed in one box so that one can carry it in car. Table, chair or even bed is packed in one box with all the necessary screws, bolts and nuts and neccesary instructions.There are huge huge stores with different sections for different wares. The best part is you may return the item if you do not like it even if it is opened and they refund without asking any question. If you plan to see all of it, one day may not be sufficient for one store.

Shoe polishing shop

Similarly there is The Office Depot where all the requirements of office are available under one roof. Then there are Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Costco, Wallgreen Pharmacy, Walmart, Ikea (stores) where all the daily needs are available under single roof. But then be prepared for huge packets, you may not require the whole of the packet but then small packets are not available.

        

 WORK CULTURE

People are dedicated to the work they are doing. Almost all stores big or small open by 6.00 a.m. and remain open till 9.00 p.m . At about 6.30 when I was going for a walk I was surprised to see several men and women decently dressed, coffee glasses in hands rushing towards their work places. They maintain punctuality and reach office in time and also leave in time to spend time with family. But then during office hours they do not indulge in personal calls. There is no particular age of retirement, one is free to work as long as he feels physically and mentally fit.

People here are very much health conscious. People of all ages are seen all around walking, jogging or running. There are Gyms which are open 24 hours. These gyms again are having a chain, if you are a member you may enjoy the facilities in any town of US.

THE ROADS

We travelled miles and miles, about 300 miles from Alameda to Santa Barbara and Los Angles, another about 300 miles from LA to Vegas and 600 miles in a day from Las Vegas to Alameda back to our place. The cars run and run and run on highways (here they call it freeways). They are literally freeways, as you never have to slow down or stop. The speed in general is 60 to 70 miles per hour. Hordes of cars, say a batch of hundreds of cars moving in the same direction and in same speed for miles and miles. Not a single hump or bump, not a single crossing, not a single person coming in your way, not a single dog or cow or sheep or goat visible or blocking your speed. There is no chance of any vendor coming to your car to sell sundry items. If you are tired of driving there are rest areas for which you have to exit from the freeways and merge again after you are ready to move on. All over the freeways there are McDowell’s, Starbucks, Jack in a Box and the likes where you may have your snacks and coffee.

 

 

 

California in general is green but as we moved towards Las Vegas which is situated in Nevada we saw beautiful mountain area and then American Desert. When one travels for such a long terrain he can see a variety of flora and fauna. So many different types of trees and birds we saw during this drive. Some of the beautiful species we saw were region speciifc.

  

ST EARNS WHARF, SANTA BARBARA

On our way to Las Vegas we planned to pass through Santa Barbara and Los Angles. As we had limited time we went straight to St earns Wharf at Santa Barbara. As we arrived at about 3 o’ clock it was misty and foggy at the wharf. A little disappointed Priyam wanted not to go ahead as nothing will be visible due to mist but as we had travelled all the way we moved on to the wharf to see what best was possible. But luckily the mist was blown away and the sky was clear. It was an amazing sight. On one side we could see the mountains and on the other the vast ocean. People enjoying all types of water sports. All over the wharf Restaurants are lined up offering different type of foods and Ice creams. Though we are vegetarians we saw people enjoying foods prepared by fresh fishes caught then and there. There are water taxis, yachts and other transport for those who wish to enjoy deep seas. Then there were some small museums, small shops of souvenirs magicians showing tricks and earning their breads. You can also find several enthusiasts sitting with fishing rods to get a great catch.

 

 

We also explored the downtown, lined up with shops showcasing variety of items to attract the tourists. We found Himalayan Kitchen, a restaurant serving vegetarian dishes. The owner was from Nepal and took good care while serving us paneer masala and stuffed naan.

 

 

 

 

 

 GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY LOS ANGLES

Any tourist visiting Los Angeles will definitely like to get photographed with the HOLLYWOOD sign on the mountains and for that Griffith Observatory is the best place. As the name suggests it is an observatory having world famous Samuel Oschin Planetarium and museum around it. Admission to the observatory is free but planetarium programmes are not. It is situated on a hillock giving advantage of viewing the whole of LA from one place. We had a plan to stay around one hour at the place as we were to reach Vegas in time driving around 300 miles but due to the serenity of the place we spent 3 hours there and clicked around 100 pictures, some with the HOLLYWOOD insignia behind and some with the Planetarium dome behind us. The observatory is surrounded by Griffith Garden which in itself is a photographer’s paradise.

 

HOLLYWOOD Insignia on the hills
Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory

LAS VEGAS

The city famous world over for its casinos. It is said that one can satiate all his wishes and vices here.  On Las Vegas boulevard “The strip” is famous for big big hotels. Every hotel has its own theme of decorations to attract tourists. Large halls are lined up with numerous gambling machines. Smaller machines for individual players are lined up in hundreds with different games, lights flashing all around. There are games for high stakes where group of people play. Casino attendants, male or female, keep the show running. Any amount for shopping or gambling is small here. For your entertainment waitresses move around to take your booze orders.

 

Then there are night clubs, cabaret shows, strip shows, fashion shows and what not. For children there are circus shows, magic shows, the wizarding world of Harry Potter, forbidden journey in 3D and mini Disney Land. One can also see miniature pyramid, Sphinx, Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty and other wonders of the world.

  

All over Vegas there are numerous restaurants serving food for tourists from across the world. We were looking for Indian food and found a restaurant named Tamba (earlier it was known as tabla. The lunch was sumptuous offering South Indian and North Indian dishes of variety along with fruits and kheer in the buffet spread. One can be satisfied only if he gets food to his liking and this was great food for us in America. In the evening we tried Thai food at Kamal, a small restaurant but served very nice Thai vegetarian delicacies. By and large all over we got vegetarian food to our liking.

 

 

We were not interested in gambling and went on exploring one hotel after another. Each one had a different inviting decor. Big size lobbies, large chandeliers and decorations as if each hotel is a museum in itself. Though we reached in the evening and it was dark we visited Cesar’s Palace hotel and to our surprise in the inner hall it was day light in the sky with clouds moving. After a while we understood that this was decoration only giving the illusion. Similarly next day when we were visiting Hotel Venetian in day it appeared to be night sky in its hall.

There is no admission fee for these hotels and casinos. In fact one can spend weeks without paying any fees, viewing these spectacular hotels which are pieces of art in it selves. There are numerous free shows in LA for attracting tourists.

   

  

  

     

      

 

 

 

 

      

  

  

     

HALLOWEEN

It is celebrated all over America and European countries to remember the deceased family members and to ward off the evil. It is celebrated on 31st October every year. I had heard about it and luckily got chance to see celebration this year when I am here. People especially children dress in scary attire and visit house to house. They ask “trick or treat”, in response the house owner offers chocolate or candies. If no treat is given it is believed that they may play some tricks or perform some scary act.

Houses are decorated with carved pumpkins, ghosts and other scary caricatures. Pumpkin cakes, puddings, ice creams and different types of pies are available at eating houses. People also organise Halloween parties, enjoy Halloween costumes, play scary games, read scary stories and special pumpkin food is served.

 

 

 

 

FAMILY AWAY FROM FAMILY

When Akhilesh came to US way back in 2010 we were afraid that how will he live without family and friends. We enquired and found some friend’s friend who was there to help him in case of any emergency. Now when I have come to Us I saw a completely different scenario. They have a very good friends group of boys and girls. Some of them their school or college friends which were together since old times or united once again after they reached US and some friendships developed here. In general Indians form their own groups. A cultural mix where all are Indians without any state or caste or creed boundaries. This friendship here is better then family relationship. As they are together day and night and for years together, they understand each other better. They may not follow the exact dates of Holi or Diwali or Raksha Bandhan but they celebrate it with full zeal. It is not surprising that they find their soul mate here and form a family. I met Akhilesh’s and Piyush’s friends who are Indians but have married Americans or Russians or Koreans. Bengali wedding with Gujarati or Marwari wedding with Marathi or Punjabi wedding with Maheshwari is common.

One or the other students’ parents keep on visiting US and this is a time of celebration. Friends are invited when parents are there. Traditional food is prepared and the bonding is all the more faster on these occasions. The tradition of touching the feets and getting blessings of parents reminds on India again and again.

 

Then there are house warming parties, birthdays, baby showers and like. The gender of the child in womb is declared in advance, it is not against the law here.

One may wonder what am I doing here in America for this long period of two and a half months, “sitting idle without any occupation”. But for me and Sapna this is long time awaited break. We are enjoying the golden period of life with Piyush, Priyam, Akhilesh and Gunja as if clearing backlog of last ten years. All of us were longing for it. My advise to all is to take a long break, spend quality time with your family, you never know when you will get this type of chance again. These memories will keep you refreshed for times to come and will give you energy after you join your daily routine again.

America as I saw (Part II)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

MY BRUSH WITH POLICE

This was my first day in USA and I was roaming around and clicking pictures in the sunny weather. As I crossed a school, I saw a huge ground having high fences, children of all ages in colourful dresses playing different games. In almost all schools, children are free to wear any dress, they are not bound to wear uniforms. It was a pretty sight and I clicked two pictures from my camera phone. Immediately a lady teacher came running and asked me – “Are you family?” I said no, she became furious and asked why was I clicking pictures, she threatened to call police. I was scared and told her that I have come from India and this was my first day, I have done this unintentionally but she did not calm down till I said sorry four to five times. She warned me not to do it again. This gave me an idea that how caring and protective they are of their children. Children are encouraged to ride cycles or skate boards as early as at the age of 3 years.

 

People here use more and more devices and machines to reduce human labour. All the houses have their own big or small gardens, and these gardens are watered by them by thin pipes fitted along the garden. Just open a tap and the whole garden is sprinkled with water. They have hand-held machines for cutting the shrubs and mowing the lawn. In every block there are laundries with washing machines lined up. One can come with the clothes and get it washed and dried paying the required cost in coins.

  

Parks and beaches are kept clean and maintained for the public. To attract visitors concrete table and benches are constructed with a grilling oven and a trash bin nearby. People come with family and friends, grill their food, relax and enjoy. These tables are constructed in such a way that hundreds of groups can enjoy without disturbing other groups.

   

POINT REYES SEASHORE AND POINT REYES LIGHTHOUSE

Here we saw thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky mountains and expansive sand beached to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides and forested ridges. Point Reyes offers thousands of species of plants and animals to discover. Luckily it was a sunny morning and we could see the sea and rocks in full view. After about an hour just as were leaving we saw cloulds engulfing us and within no time everything became invisible covered with clouds.

      

TOMALES BAY

Tomales Bay is a very long narrow inlet of the Pacific Ocean. We were a group of 9 people and were carrying our lunch and beach chairs. Enjoying the food at the beach and the games after that will always remain in memory.

    

CYPRESS TREE TUNNEL

Just near Point Reyes, there is a row of giant Monterey cypress trees that forms a “tree tunnel”. The tunnel view is really beautiful and every visitors gets down to get photos clicked at the venue.

 

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

It is in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s famed for its giant, ancient sequoia trees, and for Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. In Yosemite Village are shops, restaurants, lodging, the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery, with prints of the photographer’s renowned black-and-white landscapes of the area.

    

  

CAMPING AT YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

This was my first experience of camping. First again a night to spend with my two sons with no one else to interfere. There was no signal available and so even the phones were not disturbing. This is a very popular camp site and remains always booked. It was booked for us by Akhilesh and Piyush six months back. We reached a little late at the camp site but as Akhilesh had done several camping in his US stay he directed me and Piyush and set the camp within a short time. Next task was to lit the campfire. We had all the accessories required but lack of experience took us a while. Finally after one hour of trial and error our campfire was glowing and providing heat in that chilly night. We laid our camping chairs and distributed the food which we had taken along. It was pitch dark, the silence was eternal and we ate from the plates without knowing what we are eating. We spent about two hours gossiping and joking and pranking as a friends group.

After dinner we went for sky gazing. It was a dark night and no other light distraction was there. We could see almost all the stars in the sky. It was amazingly beautiful sky. For those who have not experienced it could be explained as innumerous LED spread all over the sky in haphazard way.

We were provided with cupboards were the food was to be kept. We were cautioned not to leave any food article outside or in the car. Bears come very often in that area in search of food.

The space in the camp was limited, we however changed our dresses which itself was a fun in that small area for three persons. Piyush got a stomach ache. He went to the car and found some medicine for himself but as we all were tired we slept without caring about the outside world.

  

  

We woke up with chirping of birds all around, in that serene environment. Finished our daily chore in the facilities provided at the ground and thought of bringing the ladies Sapna, Priyam, Gunja and Nirmalaji (Priyam’s Mother) to enjoy the camp site in the morning, who were there at the hotel at night. The car refused to start. We tried and tried but failed. At this point Akhilesh started on walk to reach them. After he went we talked to other campers and got their help. One came with a battery jumper and other suggested what can go wrong. About five minutes of charging from one car’s battery our car’s battery got charged and we came to a point where all others were waiting.

It was real fun. A lifetime experience for me and my family.