So much to tell and so little time

– but I’ll catch up, don’t worry! Right now I’m at a computer café, so don’t have the time to  make a real post. But, briefly, we’re now at Tamarindo beach, where we don’t really fit in, it’s a place full of surfers and beach bums of all ages. Anyway, we’re at a nice hotel – after first rejecting the hotel the travel agent had booked for us, and we’ll go swimming in the Pacific  soon.

We were first at the Arenal Volcano, where the pictures are from and later up in the mountains at Monte Verde, where we took a hike in the Cloud Forest. It’s the most inaccessible place in Costa Rica and you will NOT believe the condition of the  “roads”there.

Hope to be able to do some proper posts soon with some of the fantastic pictures we’ve taken. Until then, please have a look at these pictures from our Canopy tour. Some of you probably wouldn’t believe that I’d dare or that Dane would. But there goes…

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No Wifi – no blog

We´re in Costa Rica now and have experienced so much in the meantime, but have no opportunity to write about it, since there´s no WiFi at the hotel we´re at and only one shared computer between all the guests. So pictures – and there are some GOOD ones – must wait.

We´re doing just wonderfully and enjoying the lovely climate and fantastic nature here. The volcano Arenal is watching over our every move these days.

More as soon as I´m online again.

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A madhouse

Today we’ve walked up the Strip. And down the Strip. There is nothing you can say or write that can quite capture Las Vegas. It really is the oddest of places! Here are ALL kinds of people. Maybe even more so this week, when there’s the electronics fair and there are thousands of nerds and geeks, you know, bald and with black-rimmed glasses and black t-shirts with “secret messages”? And what I guess is “the usual crowd” of tourists in awe, local hustlers, Mexicans peddling “Girls delivered to your room in twenty minutes“, girls and women with very little clothes on and fat, sweaty guys at the slot machines.

New York, New York by night. Dane’s in complete awe of the Statue of Liberty and cannot believe that’s she’s even bigger in the real New York City!

Excalibur at night. It’s just so ugly it’s makes your eyes water!

New York, New York in bright daylight!

Inside The Venetian. It’s just larger than life. The sky is blue 24/7, for it’s not the sky, it’s the ceiling… You’ll believe me when I say that the gondoliers sing to their customers, won’t you?

Something new is under way. Apparently the money never runs out in this place.

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On the road again…

We’ve left San Francisco. It was a bit sad, we’d come to love the city, the area, the house. But we’re now en route to Las Vegas to meet my brother, who accidentally won a ticket to Vegas in some competition that he’d entered without thinking too much about it. Together we’ll drive out and see Grand Canyon, the last great sight on our American journey.

On our last day, we had lunch in San Francisco. I’d been complaining that we’d been a whole month in SF and hadn’t had Chinese food. We went to the Far East Café on Grant Street and had a traditional family lunch there together with hordes of Chinese. Nice finishing touch!

Dane’s fortune cookie said: Life to you is a dashing and bold adventure. For those of you who know him, this probably rings a bell :-) Mine said: Investigate new possibilities with friends. Now is the time! Anyone up?

Last night we spent at a La Quinta hotel in Bakersfield, CA. And this afternoon we’ll join my brother at the not-so-new-and-shiny Tropicana hotel on the Strip in Vegas. Will be interesting! Talked to him yesterday and asked: What’s Vegas like? And he kept saying: Different, different…

Remember to check out pictures here.

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Real life drama

Today we witnessed a puzzling drama as it unfolded under our windows, out on the bay. It is an extremely stormy day, the metereologists say it’s the worst storm in the Bay area in many years, so we wondered what a relatively large fishing boat was doing, anchored right off the coast in this part of the bay, where we haven’t hitherto seen any larger boats.

Through the binoculars we saw that two men were working on the ropes that held their dingy. After a while the dingy got away and we looked on in astonishment as one of the men dived into the sea and tried to swim after it. But it was already far gone, and he swam back and was pulled back on board by his mate.

But then they went up to the upper deck and got a canoe, which they launched into the water and the guy got into it and started paddling after the dingy (which was by now out of sight) with one big, long oar. The winds were up to 70 mph. After a few hundred yards he capsized and we could just see him clinging to the bottom of the canoe. David rang 911, but luckily they had already got a call and were on the way.

David and Dane got in the car and drove down to the bottom of the bay where they witnessed the rescue. At first nobody could see him, but then Dane and another by-stander spotted him and the two rescue vessels went to the rescue. On the last photograph you can see him being pulled to shore.

It was such a weird thing to witness first-hand and the weather was so crazy, that David’s glasses flew off. So now he’s wearing sun-glasses… They were both soaked to the skin, when they got back, in spite of all their rain gear.

Quite a few sailing boats are drifting around in the bay and have been blown onto the shore after having lost their anchors, I guess. The garden furniture was skating around on the porch and we were a bit worried about the trees. But they were the bending kind!

We’re pretending it’s Emils birthday today (it’s really in two weeks’ time), so he could decide where we’re going to eat. He chose a sushi restaurant in Mill Valley, but when we got there, the whole valley was without power. We saw many fallen trees along the way. So now we’re back in Tiburon, where there’s also a sushi restaurant and where there’s power. We were lucky not loose electricity at the house, we understand, because many thousands of houses in the bay area are without power since the storm, which has now almost died down.

x-x-x

Added at 10 pm:

This evening the above story appeared on the local paper’s website. Clearly the other guy had chosen to modify what happened in his explanation to the police. Of course, had he admitted that the guy first jumped and then sailed out in a canoe without vest or wet-suit in 70 mph winds, he might be facing charges!?!

Added January 6th:

I just read that the man died. He went into cardiac arrest when he was brought to shore, and in spite of a massive effort to bring him back to life, he was taken off life support yesterday. That is very, very sad. And particularly when his death was so utterly unnecessary. My thoughts go to his family and friends.

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A thriller

These last days we’ve (me mostly, and David) been watching CNN all day and night long to follow the so-called Iowa caucuses. That’s the pre-elections if you will, among the presidential candidates from both parties. First state is Iowa and that is of course why it’s so important.

The republican candidate who won tonight was Mike Huckabee. I had not even heard of him, when we arrived in the US and I’m pretty sure many Americans hadn’t either. And the democrat candidate who won was the black outsider Barack Hussein Obama. And Iowa is really a very white, a very religious and a very republican state. Those two candidates have very little in common. But they do have one thing: They both speak warmly about a UNITED America – united across the dividing line that has defined American politics for many, many years, a line that started widening badly during the Clinton administration because so many republicans hate him and hate Hillary so much, and which has grown so, so much deeper during the Bush administration, because of the Iraq war.

Even if Huckabee is VERY Christian and is against abortion and speaks about no sex before marriage and all sorts of things that I so not agree with, he said something very beautiful in his thank you speech in Iowa. He quoted someone, I didn’t catch who, but said: “War is not about hating the people in front of you, but about loving the people behind you.” And he drew on that line to talk about how he wanted to unite America across the divide.

Obama’s thank you speech was marvelous – I’m sure you can catch it on one of the networks’ websites or on Youtube very soon. Obama also speaks constantly about healing America and it’s self-confidence. He said: “It’s not about a group of blue states and a group of red states – it’s about the United States of America.” (Quoted from memory).

I’ve just read an article in Atlantic Monthly which elaborates on why Obama can unite America. You should read it… I like Hillary, I always did. But she looks old and worn – not as an old woman, but as an old hand –  and she repeats herself in her speeches.

And why is this so interesting to us Europeans. Well, surely that’s obvious. The president of the United States is half president of the world. What he (or she) does, the signals he (or she) sends, influence us all. If America’s economy doesn’t start to fare better very soon, that is going to affect us all. And if America doesn’t soon start working on healing the wounds in the Middle East rather than deepening them, we’ll all be in trouble. You can continue the litany yourself…

And a bit about us. We’ve been somewhat under the weather with both Emil and me suffering from relatively bad colds. Emil being hit the hardest, lying all of New Year’s day with a high fever. He’s better now, luckily.

Due to the above our New Year was quiet. We had nice food, watched a good film on the computer and toasted in tiny glasses of sparkly to a more peaceful world. It was certainly very peaceful outside our windows, no fireworks whatsoever. Pretty strange – don’t think I’ve ever experienced a New Year without fireworks before! But we watched one million people celebrate in Times Square in New York. They certainly had lots of fireworks!

Today we drove in to San Francisco and parked in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s parking garage. I can recommend that. It’s not exactly cheap, but neither is the ferry. And it’s very central and probably fairly safe. We went and saw an exhibition with Olafur Eliasson, which felt very close to home. David and I liked it a lot, Emil and Ida weren’t so impressed. We also saw an exhibition with an American artist I’ve never heard of before. Joseph Cornell. Very refreshing, very inspiring (particularly to Dane, who’s produced four boxes since we got home…) and very thought provoking. So all in all a very nice day at a very nice – but surprisingly small – museum.

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A family Christmas

The day before Emil and Ida’s arrival, we drove up to the Point Reyes National Seashore. It was a wonderful day with a good deal of hiking (to allow for the food and goodies over Christmas) and fantastic sights. We started out at the visitor’s centre, from where we took the short earth quake hike and the slightly longer hike to a remake of an Indian village. I’m afraid I’d let Dane to believe that there would be a big hole in the ground at the epicentre of the 1906 earthquake. Well, there wasn’t. It had been filled years ago. But there had been a fence, which had been split by the earthquake. This fence had been maintained ever since, so we could see how far it had moved. On the picture you can see me showing Dane the distance between the posts and explaining that I’m standing right on the San Andreas faultline, where the ground split open.

The Indian village even had a herb garden with good explanations of what the Indians used the various plants for. There were teepees for sleeping, food storage etc. Their staple food items were acorns and whatever could be salvaged from the Pacific. The acorns were ground into meal, which was then made into a variety of food stuffs.

Then we took the long, but very scenic drive to the Point Reyes lighthouse. It was 18 miles of up, up, up till we reached the very tip of the peninsula. Then we parked the car and went up again, this time on foot. Only to reach the top, from where the lighthouse is 302 steps down. Going back up corresponds to walking to the 30th floor of a highrise. But it was great fun and good excercise.

After that we drove to another vista point, the Chimney Rock, to watch the sun set over the Pacific. Before the sun set, we saw elephant seals down on the beach. What a peculiar creature!

We’d spent several days of serious Christmas shopping, so we were well prepared, when we could finally drive to the airport and pick up Emil and Ida in the early evening of the 24th. It was great seeing them and we had a really nice Christmas together. They had had a real Danish Christmas dinner with Ida’s mother on the 23rd, so we settled on a leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I love the Danish duck with red cabbage, sugarcoated potatoes and everything, but David and Dane don’t fancy it much, so there really wasn’t much point. The weather was great, so we walked down to the town and along the waterfront before dinner.

The following days we went to the top of Mount Tam (again) and took the boat to San Francisco. Today the four of them have gone fishing, while I’m in the local library writing this and researching for the next leg of our trip.

More pictures here.

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Happy Holidays

That’s what they say over here, so as not to offend anybody with the Christ-word.

We’re doing the last bits of frantic Christmas-shopping just like almost everybody else and enjoying it. We’re looking so much forward to receiving Emil and girlfriend Ida here tomorrow and are trying to guess what they’d REALLY like to eat and drink…

Dane is producing Christmas decorations as if his life depended on it.

The little Christmas tree stands gleaming with decorations and glittering lights in the living room; will post photo later.

We hope you all have lovely and peaceful holidays!

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Yosemite

Based upon the weather forecast we decided that the weekend would be the right time to visit Yosemite. It is very cold there (compared to here, that is), but the forecast promised two days of sunshine, so we got up early Saturday morning and drove east. The drive was four hours, mostly through rather dull country with vast suburbs and industrial complexes. But approx. an hour before reaching the park, the climb begins and the countryside is transformed. The mountains in Yosemite are up to 12.000 ft (4.000 m.), so what rises in front of you is indeed impressive! What surprised us was the snow – the park was covered, except the valley, which apparently almost never sees snow due to the very special meteorological conditions there.

We had booked a room at the famous Wawona hotel (as the even more famous Ahwahnee was fully booked and too expensive anyway) and checked in at 1 pm. We dressed for the weather – cold but beautiful – and drove into the Yosemite Valley. Even though prepared for some astounding sights, nothing can prepare you for the vastness of it all. Many of the roads are closed during winter, so two days were sufficient to see the sights of the valley, the museum, the Ansel Adams gallery and the visitors’ centre with a fine and child-friendly exhibition about the evolutionary history of Yosemite.

We have come to appreciate the park rangers very much. They are always very forthcoming, very polite and very well informed. So we usually make a point of talking to some of them, when we visit a state park. The handsome ranger (check his crisp uniform) on this picture surprised us by saying: “Oh, Denmark, that’s where Hans Christian Andersen, Carl Nielsen and Karen Blixen are from!” Wauw! Most people know about H.C. Andersen, but not a lot of Americans know of Carl Nielsen. The ranger played the clarinet it turned out, and Carl Nielsen’s 5th symphony was his favourite…

We stepped out of the car to take photo shots and make short hikes every ten minutes or so, caught the sunset and then headed back to the Wawona. Staying at that hotel was a mixed experience. The bar and lounge next to the dining room were beautifully decorated for Christmas, a log fire was burning and there were lots of people in festive spirits, even though everybody was dressed for hiking. There was a pianist playing WW II songs (Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, etc) and chatting with the guests and we had cocktails before dinner – all very much in sync with the spirit of the place. The dining room was also pretty and the waiters nice and attentive. The food was not memorable, but the draft was! I think you could fly a kite with the gusts that came from under the veranda door!

Dane was very tired, so we quickly went to our room. Quite a nice room with a double and a single bed and a nice bathroom. And it was sweltering in there (we’re guessing 85 degrees F (28 C)), which felt nice coming from the icy dining room and the freeze outside, but felt uncomfortable as we discovered that the heating couldn’t be turned down. OK, we opened a window and let a bit of freezing air in. But then there was the constant loud hissing of air escaping from the vent and the irregular clanging. Have any of you ever been to a place with a pre-war, cast-iron radiator central heating system? Then you’ve experienced the clanging, when the system overheats. We really tried to sleep, but it was impossible. After much swearing and cussing David got dressed and went over to the reception (you have to cross a large courtyard) to ask for another room. So in the middle of the night, we transferred – with sleeping Dane – to another room across the yard. Oh, what a difference that made! Normal temperature and absolutely no noise!

The breakfast was included and very nice. Dane had waffles with honey and hot chocolate and was MMMMM’ing a lot. Then we went ahead and saw more stunningly beautiful views and went for more lovely walks through the impressive woods. I won’t bore you with inept descriptions, but have a look at more pictures here, to get an impression.


By eight o’clock we were back home, very happy that we’d taken the trip.

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My birthday

Together with a phone call from my Mom & Dad and a sweet e-mail from Emil, Dane and David made my birthday into a lovely day of indulgence, Néné style.

It was a beautiful sunny day – don’t usually have many of those back in Denmark! – and I had yummy brunch with cards and presents. From Dane the necklace he’d made out of beads we’d bought earlier in San Francisco and a pair of Merino wool extra warm and soft socks. They came in very handy when we went to Yosemite. More about that later. And from David a book that could change my life – or maybe at least make my blog posts more pleasurable to read: Read like a writer.

We went into Mill Valley so I could indulge in one of my favourite pastimes – drinking coffee and doing stuff online. In the Depot Bookstore and café you can do both – and the bookshop, though relatively modest in size, is very well stocked. Restrained myself and bought only Vanity Fair and Atlantic Monthly

Then we drove up to Sonoma County to try out some wine tasting. The previous afternoon, in the above-mentioned café, I’d talked to a young man who’d recommended a couple of smaller places for wine tasting and a restaurant. So we went along according to his instructions and found the Family Wineries where we tasted a variety of whites, reds and dessert wines. We found most of the wines a little bit “young” tasting, but loved a red dessert wine and bought a bottle for our Christmas dinner. It will go well with the Danish Christmas dessert with the French name: Ris (rice) a l’amande.

Then we drove on and saw several other alluring places to taste wine, but even if we didn’t drink all the wine, we’d really had enough. Maybe not alcohol-wise, but certainly taste-wise. Then we went in search of the restaurant, which proved as easy to find as everything else the young man had directed us to. Thanks to this young man for his great advice! The restaurant was in a little quaint looking town called Graton. Underwood turned out to be one of the best restaurants we’ve been to on our trip. Only the restaurant in New Orleans equaled it. It was a nice and cosy place full of people. The service was excellent, the menu varied and the food lovely.

A great finishing touch to my birthday.

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A day in the city

From our local town Tiburon there’s a boat into San Francisco. It’s not exactly cheap, but neither is parking in town. Besides, parking in town seems to be an art form, which we’re not sure that we master.

We took the boat at 8:45 am and were in town 20 minutes later. We walked through Chinatown and watched the shopkeepers busily opening their shops. In North Beach we headed straight for lovely coffee and croissants at a boulangerie just across from City Lights Booksellers, while waiting for them to open. Boring Dane to bits we spent an hour or so in there. We didn’t buy any of their staple books from the golden era. I’ve never understood Burroughs and already have two copies of On the Road by Kerouac. But we bought a few newer books, also published by City Lights. If I remember it, I’ll comment on them once I’ve read them…

After that we headed towards the Coit tower. Up, up and up we strode. And then the last bit by elevator. Interesting to see everything from up there with a map handy – that way we got a much better idea of the location of various things. Dane loves the hilly streets, climbing up and running down. We spent another hour in a bead shop (yes!!!) by the name of Yone where Dane and I picked out beads, so he can make me a lovely necklace for my birthday. The old man who owned the shop had owned it since “The summer of Love” and must have been pushing 80. His younger brother was visiting from Michigan, and he wasn’t exactly young himself, a long time retired psychologist. So far the people here have been just as nice, talkative and friendly as the people in the South. That’s a positive surprise – I guess I expected Californians to be less forthcoming than Southerners.

We didn’t do much shopping, though we really ought to, Christmas being so near. We just walked. And walked and walked and walked. But enjoyed it thoroughly. At one point however, we accidentally wondered into a part of the city (the Tenderloin) full of what looked like homeless people and gang-types. Was I glad that it wasn’t dark yet! Without a word from either of us, Dane commented: “Mommy, I don’t like it here, these people look at me like they want something from me!” Oh, but was he right! We made it to Van Ness in one piece, so much the wiser. There we took refuge in yet another bookshop, Books Inc., where we sat down to rest our weary feet and have a cup of coffee. And we bought Dane a copy of The Guinness Book of Records. I never thought I’d buy that book, because I find it quite stupid, full as it is of idiotic records, dangerous scorpion longest in mouth or longest beard on a woman… But Dane is driving us nuts with questions like What’s the name of the tallest mountain in the world? How fast does the fastest airplane fly? Where does the world’s tallest tree grow? He goes on endlessly. And though we think we’re both rather knowledgeable, we really haven’t a clue about most of these fact-type questions. So there.

The boat back home was so homely, most of the people on board knew each other – at least by sight – and knew the staff. Coming into the harbour in Tiburon, we could see that many of the boat- and yacht-owners had hung Christmas-decorations from their masts and rigs. It looked very pretty!

Yesterday we drove south through the city and along highway 1 in the opposite direction. I won’t bore you with any more beautiful views, but will tell you that we saw fat seals sunbathing on the rocks just under us, when we stopped to see a lovely old lighthouse. We also had an excellent burger at Gazo’s Grill, a very cute place with fantastic décor. Any variation over the lighthouse theme you can imagine. How about a tablecloth with lighthouse-motif?

And we bought a little Christmas tree. There was no way around it…

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Wauw, we’re in California, the 23rd state on our trip!

Kind and incredibly generous friends have lent us their beautiful house with a stunning view of the San Francisco bay, the bridge and the city. It is situated in what is called Marin county, a lovely area north of the city, on “the other side” of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once again we’ve been blessed with lovely weather, so we chose to spend the first days here (we have an entire month) exploring the local area. We started by walking on our feet, down to the nearest town Tiburon and around it. I think we probably looked at or into every shop… A lovely little town complete with yacht club, a number of good restaurants (or so the guidebook claims) and building styles to suit everyone. We spent an hour or so in the Whole Foods store in the next town to stock up the fridge. Then we were dead tired – had been up in the middle of the night in Texas to catch a so-called red-eye flight out of San Antonio. And there was the time difference of two hours.

Next day we drove north along the coast on famous highway 1. Phew, it’s winding! Both Dane and I got a little bit queasy to tell the truth, even if neither of us usually suffer from motion sickness. But it was well worth it – the views were stunning all the way and we finished off with a very rewarding walk along Stinson beach (our first close encounter with the Pacific) and a nice lunch including lovely grilled oysters (my favourite new food, I think). We drove around looking for the epicentre of the 1906 earthquake, which we’d heard was in the area, but there were no signs, and nobody we asked knew where it was. When we got home, we finally found a reference to it in the guidebook, so we’ll have a look at it next time we get up there.

Sunday was also spent in the neighbourhood, in two of the state parks, which I believe I’ve praised several times. First we went to the Mount Tamalpais (the locals lovingly call it Mount Tam) State Park and climbed the 2.571 ft (784 m.). No, of course we didn’t. We drove up – a road even more winding than Highway 1 (more queasiness) and only hiked the last half mile (a little less than 1 km) only to be rewarded with panoramic views of the Pacific and the bay, the city, the bridges, the redwood forests. Oh me, oh my!

The picture of us at the summit is taken by a couple of Berkeley graduates, who chatted us up. Once more we’ve come up close to some of these beautiful youths who innocently don’t know just how fortunate they are. They were sweet and gracious and chatted with us happily.

Finally we drove down, down, down to the Muir Woods National Monument. It’s the last standing redwood forest on the coast, thanks to a wealthy couple that donated the forest to the government a century ago. Once again a beautifully laid out national park providing both access to astounding natural wonders and good signs and brochures to explain it all. The redwoods stand so close and are so tall that even on a day like this with a clear blue sky, there’s not a ray of sun reaches the ground beneath them. We took the longest of the short hikes (around 4 miles (6,5 km)) and were very satisfied with ourselves afterwards.

Dane is driving us mad with Christmassy questions. Can we get a Christmas tree? Can we buy that wrapping paper? Can we buy those big red bows for the presents? Can we buy Christmas lights for the tree outside? Can we? Can we? Can we?

So far we’ve given in to the last one and bought a string of coloured lights for the tree outside the window in the living room. Dane cherishes it!

More photos here.

There’s no Internet at the house, so blogposts will be scattered.

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Culture shock

We had a culture shock the other day (December 1st). We had spent a nice afternoon in the cowboy village at Enchanted Springs. It was fun, we’d learned a lot about cowboys and indians, fed vicious looking catfish and petted several longhorns.

 

After that we had a most satisfactory meal at Chili’s and we were on our way home, when we came into Boerne (Bur-nee) and found the traffic being diverted. Everybody seemed to be parking their car and heading in the same direction, all towing kids. Ah ha, the intelligent tourists exclaimed: It must be something to do with Christmas!

And it was. A Christmas Parade. We used to think that Christmas in Denmark and the UK is over commercialized and utilized for a number of purposes that probably weren’t on Jesus’ list. But – lo and behold – we had not been to Boerne! The Danish and English cristmas is pristine in comparison.

 

In a brain-numbing mixture of love of uniforms, dress-up, marching, beauty pageants, pets, football and numerous other things, the parade made it’s way down Main Street. We were dumbfounded!

But you know what? It was also quite lovely… With all the bright lights, all the townspeople out and about, chatting and visiting and the antipicitation of the holidays, it had it’s own charm.

Generally, that is what we’ve found here in the US. The same people who are unbelievably kind, friendly and so helpful it’s embarrassing also harbour views of the world that we find appalling! The country is so beautiful and so charming and at the same time so incredibly ugly and scary. I guess that’s what makes it so attractive, compelling and fascinating!

This morning I checked the news on Danish national tv’s website. I found a disturbing news story about a Guantanamo prisoner, who’d cut his throat with his fingernails. Unfortunately for him, I guess, he survived. The official explanation from Guantanamo and Washington was that he did it to cast a bad light on the US. Yeah, that’s what it said.

We’ve had several discussions about the US media with the family and with other people we’ve met here. I’m sure it’s difficult to judge the quality of your own country’s media if you don’t have anything to compare it with. But I also think that most people (not only Americans) can’t be bothered to make that comparison. Well, I can. And I searched for this news story on a number of major American news sites. I found the story on CBS, but not on CNN, Fox or ABC.  The fact that I found it on most of the major newspaper sites is good. But it’s also a fact that most Americans don’t read a newspaper (or it’s website) and therefore rely solely on the TV networks to provide them with the necessary knowledge to form an opinion.

OK. Got that off my chest…

And, by the way, tomorrow morning we fly west. To San Francisco, California. See you there!

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The grocery store

In Denmark and in the UK, we call it a supermarket. But here, where SUPER really is a matching term, they humbly call it a grocery store. Even if it’s 10 times the size of a large Danish supermarket.

We have actually been in the States for close to three months now, but we still get lost in the grocery stores. I guess if we’d stayed in one place and only went shopping in one or two different grocery stores, we’d have learnt to find our way round by now, but we’ve been to so many different ones… And even if I am beginning to see a pattern in the way they have them laid out, there are still items that I just cannot find. So everytime we go shopping, even if it’s only for dinner for one evening, it still takes an hour…

Readers of my blog(s) are familiar with my inclination towards organic food stuffs. They are not easy to come by here, but in most bigger grocery stores, you can get organic milk, butter, yoghurt, cream etc., mostly from Horizon. I haven’t seen organic meat outside Whole Foods, which I’ve written about previously. But some stores sell meat without hormones. I’ve also seen some organic fruit and veg and spices at Shaw’s (which we really liked), Kroger, HEB and Publix.

Generally though, I find that most of the choices they offer you in these huge temples of consumption are false.  For instance, I went looking for detergent. In the average grocery store I guess there are at least 30 different brands. And they all promise the same results (guess what), cost more or less the same and sport glaring, ugly packaging. I was – evidently – looking for a detergent which would promise me the least damage to the environment while getting the job done. I looked and looked, but none of them seemed to promise me anything of the sort. In the end I chose Purex – I guess deluded by the name and the relative simplicity of the packaging. However, I don’t really think it’s any better than all the other stuff…

In Whole Foods (the nearest one 25 miles away from here) you can get the whole range of Ecover, so clearly it can be had in this country, but isn’t in demand :-(

When you shop without a shopping list prepared in advance, you’re easily deluded by the choice. Like, look, you can choose between 50 different types of beverages! Ain’t that great? But when you look closer, the choice is very limited. There are the ones with sugar and the ones with sweeteners. And that’s it! At home I usually offer Dane some sort of cordial when I think he deserves something sweet. But here the only cordial-type beverages you can buy are either made from grapes, which Dane unfortunately dislikes or not from fruit at all… The type of cordial made from raspberries, strawberries or redcurrant,  that you dilute with water, which we always had at home and sometimes even made ourselves, just can’t be had here. So it’s water, milk, beverages with artificial sweeteners (which I try to avoid), chocolate milk or soda. Dane drinks a good deal of water, but isn’t too keen on milk. That leaves me with very little to choose from! In this, the land of choice!!!!

However, if you try shopping with a shopping list, for instance because you want to prepare a real meal with several courses, you find that there’s lots of stuff you just can’t get or where the choice is more than limited, even in a fairly well stocked grocery store. I wanted cardamom pods to ground myself. But they didn’t have that. And only one (non-organic) brand of ground cardamom. And vanilla: They had at least 10 different kinds of vanilla extracts and a veritable abundance of vanilla sugar. But only one kind of whole vanilla bean, which I had to have a store clerk to help me find. I don’t think she’d ever seen or smelled one. And it wasn’t a very good one either. I needed rapeseed oil. Couldn’t find that. And then there’s the weird thing about lamb. Americans don’t eat lamb. As David puts it, the founding fathers probably didn’t approve of lamb, so… The general explanation we get is that people had mutton as children and hated it. And so they are not trying lamb as grown-ups. What’s even more strange is that veal is so hard to come by. I mean, in a steak-loving country like this? All that said; some choices are real and abundant – in the good grocery stores they offer a marvellous selection of seafood. And it’s cheap too!

Don’t get me wrong, though. I love shopping here and I love walking up and down the aisles looking at all the strange products and sneaking looks into other people’s shopping carts. And if I were to live here in the US, I’d just have to settle down close to a Whole Foods store. I’d be happy then – foodwise!

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Thanksgiving with the family

We’re now back in Texas and today is Thanksgiving. The whole family is together and it’s very lively. I think there are twenty of us. Dane is having the time of his life with four older boys to play with. And they’re so good to him too! The turkey is cooking in the oven and dirty rice are being prepared on the stove. Desserts are pre-prepared and tucked away around the house where there’s room. The tv’s are on in every room and people are watching the traditional Thanksgiving parade.

It’s all very homely and strange at the same time – at least for us, the Danes. Dane finds it pretty funny that they call us all the Danes – he thought he was the only one!

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