Monday, July 26, 2010

On the road

So I’ll be moving back to the Netherlands by the end of August. Even though I hoped to stay in the US for a bit longer than two years, I didn’t manage to break with my post-high-school routine of moving to a different country on at least a biannual basis. But it will be good to be closer to friends and family, and living in Amsterdam will be a new experience for me after living in Beerze and Leiden.

Before moving back, though, I am planning to get to know the US better by making a road-trip to California. The tentative route will include Savannah, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; Austin, Texas; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Moab, Utah; Los Angeles, California and finally San Francisco. It should be a good mix of cities and natural parks, hostels and campsites, coast and inland and desert and mountains, so I’m excited. Finally I’ll get to see the great natural beauty of the US I’ve heard so much about.

But it’s also fun to be on the road in DC, and to get to know this city better. With that purpose – and to make some money for the long road-trip – I’ve started working as a bike-messenger. I was always intrigued by the fearless guys (and some girls) who ride their awesome looking bikes through traffic to deliver documents and packages all over town as quickly as possible. So now I get to go from law-firms to government departments, from travel agencies to embassies and from NGO’s to accounting firms to file documents, deliver paychecks, apply for visas and pick up financial statements for audit. I is a great way to get to see the buildings where organizations such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the DC District Federal Court, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Human Rights Watch etc. are located.

It also offers me the opportunity to get to know DC from a whole different perspective. Instead of the well-equipped, protective and comfortable environments of universities or office buildings, the streets in DC expose you to the weather and traffic, and allow interaction with homeless and hustlers. Talking to other bike-messengers and service staff of office buildings also shows the less glorious side of DC, where people don’t get the salary, security and perks that go with a job at a law-firm or a government agency. While most people visualize such more glamorous occupations when thinking about DC, the majority of those that are born and raised here end up doing the more mundane tasks, and now I finally have a chance to experience that life-style too. I must say, I enjoy it for the time being, but I’m glad that I have the prospect of a job at a Dutch bank, where I don’t have to worry about exposure to the elements, getting into an accident or the amount of my income. It will also be nice to learn new things again, because by now there are few surprises left in my day-to-day activities.

Another great way to explore the area around DC is on a motorized bicycle. After getting my motorcycle endorsement in May, I finally hit the road on a rented bike (at the front in the picture) a few weeks ago together with Mike, whom I had met at the motorcycle training. It was great to see the countryside in Maryland without the confinement of a car. A motorcycle also offers a much more direct experience of the speed, power and sound produced by the engine, making it less of a mind-numbing activity such as driving a car can turn into. I was always wondering what it would be like to ride a bike, and now I finally got to experience it! And I must say, it made me appreciate and understand America’s love of motor-vehicles a bit more.

That was even more so after Mike took Chloe and me to a car-show in Manassas, about 40 miles west of DC. There, car-lovers who had bought and restored classic beauties such as old Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Corvettes, Dodge Challengers etc. showed off their cars, often with the hood open to make the engine visible. Strong symbols of the time when the US car industry was still alive and well. Why don’t they make cars like that anymore?


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