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Monday, August 18, 2014

America The Beautiful

Sunset at Plains of San Agustin, NM
One Friday morning my husband sleepily said: "Let's go on a road trip." I looked at him confusedly, since we were still in bed and haven't even fully wake up yet. I said to him, "Okay, where and when do you want to go?" He grinned at me and answered: "New Mexico. We will leave in an hour." With that he jumped off the bed, telling me to pack while he browse for hotel and that we will have breakfast en route. And so we did.

Coming from Indonesia, I am always curious and excited about seeing more of USA. After all, it is my current residence country and I will stay here for quite a while. Loving or even accepting that I will spend my life here was not always easy though. For the first nine months I was sort of home bound, I didn't have work permit yet so when my husband off to work I had to stay behind. I would walked to grocery store, took a bus to meet my husband for lunch, joined a writers club, but I made no substantial friend and for those nine months the only US phone numbers in my phone book are my husband's, a friend of his, and a friend of mine in Minneapolis. This was just about as much as I know about US. I rely on internet news outlets to know more of what happened in US, and it wasn't pretty. Violence everywhere, gun maniacs abound, irresponsible parents, careless youngsters, the "me, Me, ME!" attitude, these were all I saw and shaped my image of USA. Even when you read an especially touching and make-you-feel-good news article, all you need to do is scroll down to the comment section to have your faith in humanity broken again. Such was the USA that I know, and I would often cried bitterly inside wishing that I could return and stay in Indonesia instead.

Catalina State Park, AZ
Yet as I stood on The Plain of San Agustin with the bright full moon and the prettiest, clearest night sky above me I couldn't help but saying aloud: "This is America. This is the real America".

What people, both abroad and within USA itself, fail to understand is how big USA is. It is massive, and each part of USA is beautiful in its own way. A friend of mine from Kansas told me all about the part of Kansas they lived in: the tall weeds, the wildflowers in summer, the chickens they kept, the vast area they call home. She described it in such way that I could see the glimmer of love in her eyes, and I knew how precious it was all to her. She wasn't even American. A friend in Minneapolis texted me a picture of a snowy day one time, and I was amazed because that day in California was a somewhat sunny day. This all happened within one country. When we take our monthly road commute from California to Arizona it is always a treat to see how the vista changes and how the landscape and vegetation differs from one another, and it was enchanting to go from Arizona and see New Mexico for the first time with all its green vegetation and vast plains. A guy in Arizona once told me he had never seen the sea. As someone who grew up from an country made of several thousand islands, I find it both shocking and hard to believe. Yet it describes perfectly of what USA really is, a land so vast, a country so big that one states to the other would have such different characteristic yet so advanced and so well maintained that the (roughly) 400 miles distance between Tucson to Magdalena can be reached with only 6 hours. As a comparison, going around the island of Bali with motorcycle will take about 2 days, that means it roughly took 16 hours to travel 250 miles distance.

Picnic at The Getty, CA
Nevertheless, it is not just the land that describes USA. It is also about the people. It is about the friendly waitress at a diner in Datil that, when I told her I never had Pecan Pie before, happily gave me an extra slice because "It is so good!". It is about the quaint little Mexican food restaurant in Hatch with an old cabinet as decoration filled with books - both old and new, and the most delicious red chili enchilada I've ever had. It is about the friendly cashier at Tucson's Wildlife Museum's gift shop, who was ever so enthusiast to helped us and even joining our little family to try Salt 'n Vinegar Cricket, much to the delight of our six year old. It is about the man at an automotive store in Tucson that claimed there was nothing to see at sea, only sharks; and which his co-worker retort: "there are sharks on NYC too, but people go there". It is about our cool waitress at a bar in Dana Point who smilingly gave my friend a hug when she asked for one, even though it was clear she was not sober anymore. It is about the soft-spoken sales attendant in a firework shop between Arizona and New Mexico that proudly show some pictures he took when he visited California and found himself at a close proximity with an ongoing SWAT Team raid. It is about our nice cashier at an Albertson's in Costa Mesa that always manage to sneak us some extra stamps for the point program I had my eyes on. It is about all of those and more.

Roadside curios - between AZ and NM
My husband told me in the olden days people really like to do road trips, and he had such fond memories about the road trips he took with his dad where they would camp and go fishing and do all kind of fun things while driving from New Mexico to Arizona. We stopped at The Thing en route to New Mexico and he explained that those roadside attractions were famous in their heyday, providing entertainment for the children (and brief respite for their parents) on their road trip, since iPads and mobile phones and other 'electronic pacifier' didn't exist back then. I thought to myself, what a great way to see their country! As I mentioned above, it took far longer time for me to do road trip within Indonesia, both because of the road condition and also because we practically divided by sea and the ferries are not reliable at all; thus I am so envious with the ease of connections that the Americans have within their country. USA is about the driving through the sunset on the Plain of San Agustin with the VLA (and jackrabbits and pronghorns) in the background. USA is about immersing in joy and excitement at Santa Monica pier. USA is about appreciating art at The Getty (and the most delicious hot link pastrami burger at Hawkins). USA is about cuddling and enjoying the comfort of your home when the Tucson monsoon rain comes. USA is about a big country that offers a multitude of adventures and different culture and life style in its every part.

A lot of people don't realize this though. You can easily found these Americans in the comment section of any article (especially controversial ones), spouting their own belief and parading their ignorance. As for the people abroad, there are a lot of people who thinks US is the spawn of devil itself thanks to the war it inflicts to the world. Even though US have its own policy as the 'defender of democracy' and that most American citizens are unlikely to be the one that asked the government to wage war, it does not matter to the outside world who is adamant to claim that US is 'The Bad Guy'. But then again, does what outside people think about US really matters? As an outsider who currently resides in USA, the answer, for me, is that it doesn't matter. It's like when you were called fat or ugly, it hurts but nothing that anyone say about you can actually create a difference on how you look. It's how you see yourself that matters. And that is why I wrote this article. It is a selfish move, mind you. People who love and embrace themselves, or in this case, their country wholeheartedly are friendlier and far easier to deal with than dissatisfied ones. Who doesn't want to live in a place where everyone is happy and friendly? But even without that not-so-hidden motive, I feel I have been granted a precious opportunity to see USA from a fresh perspectives. I like what I see, and I hope to share this view with many others. Say what you want, complained and whine as you wish, but leave a room in your heart to properly see how beautiful and special your country is, and that she is indeed 'America, The Beautiful'.

1 comment:

  1. nice to learn english language and quite hard to read it all..


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