Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Red, White and Blue - Part 3

I am a vegetarian and this can be quite a trouble while traveling. Sometimes, it is hard to find a good place to eat specially when I prefer fresh food over processed food like burgers etc. So, while looking for a restaurant around the area of our hotel, I encountered a place where I observed that there was a big line to order food. I remembered a saying by one of my uncles back in India that while deciding between two places to eat, always go where you see more people. At least the food you get there will be fresh. Thinking of applying that technique I decided to check out that place named Chipotle. It was a Mexican fast food joint but not very high end. I saw the menu on the wall and amongst many other things in the list, I saw Burrito. I knew what it was and always wanted to try it. Since I had always read that there are a lot of Mexicans living in US, so I thought it could be something more authentic than what we find in Germany. The guy standing in front of me ordered a Burrito bowl where one had the option to select from a number of things to be added on top of a bowl of rice. I preferred to have that over a normal Burrito since it looked pretty tempting. I got red beans and other vegetables on my rice and randomly asked to put the mint sauce on top. The quantity was quite a lot compared to the price. I tasted a spoon of the rice with that sauce and it really hit me hard. It was amazing specially the sauce. It was made with mint, a lot of chillies and had a tangy taste to it. I devoured that bowl in no time. I left that place pretty satisfied for a cup of coffee. As they say that the route to a man’s heart is through is stomach, the US was continuously winning his brownie points over me (specially after the shopping streak).

After the work week, on Friday my boss took a flight back home and I had planned to visit my mom’s sister and her family in Houston for the weekend. Unfortunately, I did not had more time to see D.C. since after going back to Germany, I had my flight to India from there on Tuesday. I had already booked them long time back for my vacations before the US trip had finalized. Anyways, I took my flight from D.C to Houston which was via Chicago on Friday afternoon. The plan was to reach Houston on Friday night. But after reaching Chicago, I found out that the flight to Houston was cancelled because unexpectedly it had snowed in Houston and since it is not normal for them, their airport had no means to clear the ice and make it safe for flights to land. So much for technology rich US, I thought to myself. Their airport can’t even handle snow? And to my horror, the next available flight was next morning. I had to spend the night at the airport. It did not made much sense to leave the airport for a hotel for few hours and then go through the security checks again. Moreover, I could not take my luggage since it was still with the airline people. The airline people arranged some make shift beds for us for the night. Incidentally, I met a nice Mexican couple and a pretty American girl (lets call her AG) also in the area from my flight. Since all of us were going through the same plight of spending the night at the airport, we developed a mutual pity for each other which slowly turned into friendship. We had rounds of snacks and drinks all through the night. They were very warm people and I am still in touch with them. I realized after all, US is really not that bad a place as I thought.

The next morning did not came with good news. The first flight was already full so we did not had the chance to board it. Thus, we had to wait for the next and just hope that it had a few free seats. If not, the next flight after that was in the evening. In the meantime, AG told us that we are allowed to take a detour. This means that we could take a flight to a less busy airport and then take a flight from there to Houston rather than waiting the whole day for a free seat. I tried to ask for possible combinations from few officials of my airlines but no one was helpful. AG was pretty clever and knew her way around airports. She then took me with her to take a round and check out all the gates and information counters to spot the right official. I could not believe her precision in spotting the right person. Bang, she went straight to her target and got all the information regarding the possible connections. Unfortunately, there was just one place free on one such connection. I asked her to take it and I would wait for the regular next flight. Who knows, maybe I get lucky to find a free seat on it. So, I wished her good luck in life before saying goodbye to her and then came back to the Mexican couple. We all got lucky to find enough free places on the next flight thus saving us the day. But the experience left me feeling happy to meet such nice people and being so open and friendly to a total stranger like me.

Again on the flight from Chicago to Houston, a guy sitting next to me got quite friendly with me. Usually, in Germany people are not so open sometimes to start up a conversation. I think sometimes it has to do with the culture and lack of English speaking skills that they shy off. But this guy had a nice chit chat with me. He was quite happy and curious to know my experiences both in Germany and in the US since both of them were foreign land for me. He wanted to draw some parallels and contrasts between the two places. So, I had a pretty good conversation with him. At the end, I asked him a question I always wanted to ask an average US citizen. After all that is happening in the world, is he still proud to call himself American? To my surprise he gave a pretty blunt and honest answer. He said he was proud to be an American, no doubts about it and America is a great place to live but at the same time he said he did not liked many of the policies of his government. He gave me many examples and I could not be more impressed and satisfied by his answer.

So, all in all this trip was a pretty good learning experience for me. I got to see a new land where most of the people of my homeland want to end up one day. I saw the complete contrast that exists between US and Europe. Both the places are quite distinct in their existence and way of life even though both are called Western developed nations. Everything from cars, to houses, to public transport, to food, the people were quite distinct between the two continents. To summarize it all, this trip served as an eye opener for me since I had quite a different perception of this place. In the end all I can say is that it is a great place with great people but its politicians and its media has really dented its image all over the world. I hope this gets changed in the future.

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