16 August 2010

reverse culture shock

smu01you decide to try.

try being a tourist in texas. it didn’t last long…. but at least you tried. so it starts with a visit to the smu campus. southern methodist university. in dallas, a private college (here, university and college are the exact same thing) that is known for… well, you aren’t sure. except perhaps many of the people who attend the school are rich? but as with any college, public or private, there is always lots of money involved.

smu02there are actually quite a few good universities in the dallas/fort worth area. tcu (texas christian university) in fort worth, unt (university of north texas) in denton, uta (university of texas at arlington) in arlington, utd (university of dallas) in dallas… etc… etc.

but why smu? simple. there’s a sculpture by the spanish architect santiago calatrava – the wave. giant bronze rods that move over a reflection pool to mimic the movement of a wave. it’s something you really have to see – still photos don’t do it justice.

smu04 smu also has the meadows museum. their own museum, right on campus. unfortunately it’s late and they’re closed, but they have some outdoor sculptures for you to look at.

smu03and another fountain for you to make lots of wishes.

you wonder if the tradition of throwing pennies into fountains and wishing exists in europe? you can’t remember. but in america, as long as there aren’t any fish to choke on coins, you can make wishes with the pennies you throw into the fountains.

smu05a chapel. just makes you think about europe. and how you used to always take lots of breaks in the churches. but not in america.

smu06the next day, a road trip. to houston. but what happened to the blue skies texas is so famous for that you missed so much…? did you really leave normandy for… even more cloudy skies?

smu07hello, traffic. another thing you forgot about that goes hand in hand with driving.

smu08your friend has an art opening. yes! intimate galleries you mingle with people. that didn’t happen in europe because you didn’t have any friends in the scene. but in houston? you hop right in and chatter away.

smu09and. tex-mex. bingo. you have a set of criteria for tex-mex or mexican food.

this time, the rules are:

1. must be in a sketchy and potentially dangerous area

2. must have flickering fluorescent lighting

3. must have a certain decor

4. must be cheap.

5. must be greasy enough to make you regret the meal afterwards

smu10when all those elements come together, you’re guaranteed to have authentic and delicious mexican food.

smu11the pastries also must be too sweet. you can’t finish this, it’s just a rush of sugar straight to the head.

smu12the next day, your friend is a bit busy so you take  mini trip to galveston.

about an hour south east of houston, here you see the marshes.

smu14which eventually transitions into the ocean. it’s not very pretty… but at the very least, the sound of the water is enough to make you happy. a coast is better than no coast at all, you tell yourself.

smu13then you hop downtown and have a look around.

smu15you can’t seem to avoid rain, can you?

smu16one thing you notice right away is just how much more spaced out things are. wider everything. room to breathe. not so cramped.

smu17you duck into a store, and you’re happy to see things influenced by mexico and latin america. something you definitely didn’t see in europe.

smu18and you realize that as long as you keep and open mind and keep exploring, there are treasures within your own backyard.

smu19antique stores. thrifting. oooooh. the fun begins. your love for old stuff transcends a culture – as long as it’s old, you love it.

smu20a few years ago, perhaps you heard of hurricane katrina? the flood that destroyed and took so many lives. if you look, you can see the traces of efforts to prevent damage on now-abandoned buildings.

smu21po boxes. does this exist in europe? where you can have mail mailed to a box at the post office rather than your home. and wouldn’t you love to have your mail mailed to a box this nice looking?

smu22galveston has it’s share of historical old houses.

smu23but you get hungry. for what else, mexican food. simple. chips + salsa = all you really need to be happy.

smu24and beans! beans are so good. perhaps not for you, but at least taste wise you love them.

smu25you are not sure how or where or why the flamingos-on-the-front-lawn movement started, but it is something pretty typical in texas. you can think of a certain spot in austin that is just filled with them.

and what is this yellow box? why, it’s a parking system. you park in a numbered slot, and then stuff your money into a slit. and when the parking guy checks the box, there better be money in the slit with the number with your car, or else you will be towed.

take parking seriously in america. tow trucks are always always happy to take your car away.

smu26galveston is also an important port for cruise ships. lots of cruises depart here. also lots of industrial stuff going on here, which does not make for a very pretty scene. is that an oil platform? why yes it is.

smu27little boat, big boat. which do you prefer?

smu28and then you drive back to houston. you’re struck by the highway systems… it really is something you forgot that existed. multiple bridges crossing each other going in all sorts of directions. if you don’t pay attention and miss a lane change you can easily end up somewhere else.

smu29more antique browsing. perhaps the one thing that is keeping you sane in america.

smu30then you catch up with old friends over dinner. outside. just like in europe, the combination is the same. food + friends = perfect.

that is the always most important thing, wherever you are.

1 comment:

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Thanks for showing Texas through your lenses! Very interesting and so different from what we are used to see in Europe...