At first, I thought I would write a food blog while in the USA, and I will at a later stage, but it felt almost like I was ignoring the elephant in the room if I didn’t discuss the trip in light of current world events. There is no point ignoring what is happening around the world and in America, so this may seem like a controversial topic for a travel blogger but I would be lying if I didn’t say certain things had a huge impact on me.
The trip started in San Francisco and rather than wearing some flowers in my hair, I was dreaming of scarves, beanies, and gloves – it was freezing! San Fran is beautiful, so much to see and do, amazing sites and history, and some seriously good food. It is also full of colourful characters and what I noticed the most was how friendly everyone was, and when they heard the Aussie accent, even friendlier.
Pride Parade 2017 was on the weekend we were there so we joined 2 million other people and lined up and walked the main street all day. Pride is the celebration for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender). There was glitter galore, outrageous costumes, beautiful men and women all walking for the same cause, and people from every part of the world joining in the celebration. There were also many people who felt clothing was optional which takes guts because San Fran is a tad chilly!
But I would be lying if I said I felt safe. With recent world events and the terrible shooting at the nightclub in Orlando, 2 million people all dancing and celebrating seemed to me to be a risk. It is a shocking way to think but at one point a huge crowd formed and no one could move through the bottleneck to get out. I won’t lie, I had a panic attack. Nothing had happened, it was just a crowd moving along but it made me realise how vulnerable I now feel.
We are a world that apparently has become more tolerant and more accepting and yet all evidence to the contrary. We appear to live more in fear now than ever and when people found out we live in Bali, they said they would never go there because it’s too dangerous. Now Bali is no more dangerous than anywhere else, including America, so it was certainly an ill-conceived notion.
While in San Francisco we did a tour of Muir Woods and several wineries and a brewery. We were with a group of people and a few very vocal locals. At the beginning of the day, one of them said “Can I get a group photo of us all?” and another woman on the tour said, “Well that would be wonderful!”. And I thought…what? Huh? Why would that be wonderful? Lack of coffee at that stage perhaps but I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having my photo taken with a group of strangers. But by the end of the tour the group was having a great time, possibly aided by wine, but nevertheless we were laughing, making promises of keeping in touch, sharing FB names, and yes, I even happily posed for lots of group photos. And you know what, it was wonderful.
But this takes me to my next observation…Americans have a belief in their own infallibility. Unrelenting. Patriotic. And while they admit mistakes can be made, they treat them as lessons and move on. They are zealous in their passion and patriotism, although some are wavering and struggling with the current political environment and choices made by their ‘leaders’. A few people I care about often say ‘America is the best country in the world’. Naturally I think Australia is, my Italian friends think Italy is and my friends from Bali think Bali is. And they are all correct. Patriotism and a love for our country is natural and to each of us, our country is the best.
Patriotism can fast turn into fanaticism and that is dangerous from and in any country. America, like anywhere, has its share of fanatics: religious; political; and just fanatical because they have nothing else to do. I was expecting Pride to be like Sydney Mardi Gras, a huge party and celebration of glittery fabulousness (I read somewhere that 60kg of glitter was swept up after Mardi Gras last year), and partly the San Francisco Pride Parade was great fun but it was also very political. I’m ok with people having political opinions but I’m not ok with people pushing their opinions on me. And there really is no escaping politics in America right now. It seems to me the electoral system makes no sense, with some votes not even counting and it not being compulsory to vote. It’s a democracy, I get that, but I can’t help but wonder if all votes counted, and if everyone voted, would things have turned out the way they did?
Same too for the religion. I’ve been told by American history lovers that a reason Americans left Britain was because they didn’t want to be dictated as to what religion they had to follow. They wanted to avoid religious persecution and practice their beliefs as they saw fit. Now America has more religions than possibly anywhere else in the world, my opinion only and not fact, and I base this on the melting pot of cultures that now form America, which I personally love and think it’s the best part of the country – certainly provided this traveller with amazing food. Clare celebrating 4th of July
We went to a country parade for the 4Th of July and it was brilliant…. except I did find all the floats for various religious groups confronting. I’m not used to that and certainly can never recall seeing anything like that in Australia. The best parts of the parade were watching all the kids scramble for lollies being thrown out by the passing floats, dodging water balloons thrown at us by people on the floats, the donuts and coffee, and feeling a great sense of belonging. Made me very nostalgic and in a funny way, very home sick for Australia, for our Christmas Lights Parade and the Royal Show. After the parade, we had a true American style BBQ and then all napped in some kind of food induced coma. That was my favourite day of the trip.
I debated whether to include this in the blog, because really, I am a travel blogger, but for those who asked…yes, I went to department stores that sold guns. Did I find that terrifying? Without a doubt. However, I am an Australian who has never actually held a real gun, nor wants to. For some, guns are a part of life in that they have grown up around them and hopefully know what they are doing. Do I think guns should be sold in department stores? No. But for every person who dislikes guns, there are people who argue their value. My last thought on this, a gun could be a deadly weapon, a car could be a deadly weapon, it’s people who determine the safety and use.
I hope that America is still more well known for its friendly people who can’t wait to chat and help you with anything you need, and as a country that knows how band together and fix what needs fixing; as compared to being recognised for some of the terrible events and commentaries that have been unfolding over the last few years. During this trip, I could not escape the feeling that changes were happening, there is unrest and people seem to be questioning more than ever. Questioning is never a bad thing, everyone should hold their government and leaders accountable for quality of life for everyone, for equal rights and personally I think if governments were graded on compassion and care, there may be a few politicians nervous about their future employment.
I had an absolute blast in America …. literally! I got to light up my first firecrackers for the 4th of July and they were easily as big as any fireworks I’ve seen in Australia. I spent time with family and friends who I absolutely adore, I saw beautiful cities and national parks, met amazing people with great stories, learnt so much more than I ever imagined about politics and history, and ate a lot of delicious food from every nationality you could imagine!
My American food blog will be coming out soon… however next up: things you need to know about retiring in Bali; and where exactly does Balinese furniture come from?!