Between Disneyland, craft beers, Southern hospitality, national Parks, bottomless softdrinks and biscuits I get my first taste of American culture. Diversity. Superlatives. Anything is possible. Just know where to look, and bring a smile, your wallet and an identification card.
I am in the biggest supermarket that I have ever seen. 300 meters of cans. Natural and artificial flavor. Specials. Full fat. All natural. Organic. Best in town. American Swiss, Dutch and Danish Cheese. Goat flavored cheese. Cranberry juice made from grape concentrate. High fructose corn syrup. Niacin. Nicotine. Fireworks.
Orlando, Florida. May 6.
I have arrived and my mind is unable to keep up with my day and the distance I have crossed.
This morning I woke up in Amstelveen, The Netherlands. A sunny day, the garden is blooming and I can smell the flowers. The delicate yellow and pink pansies are smiling at me and the tulips wave their heads respectfully. I bite off a big red strawberry and breathe in as much Dutch air as possible.
One last hug. And one more look. It is time to spread my wings.
Eleven hours later. I have made it to Orlando. My second visit to the United States. I get a friendlier arrival than expected at immigration and an even warmer welcome past immigration. Five long months have passed and it is real, and delicate. I can’t stop looking at the driver next to me. My lover. In person. On the highway. In America.
The first signs. Mini golf. Malls. Chains. Arcades. Volcanoes. Fake alligators, goldmines and one-dollar shops. Disneyworld. Epcot. Universal Studio’s. Ripley’s. International Drive. Downtown Disney.
People drive here. Everything is spread out, walking seems to be something from the old days and public transport does not really exist. Ice is available everywhere, just as soft drinks, snacks and microwaves. People usually start talking to you, and they like to talk to strangers. I am not used to all the enthusiasm. How would they feel in a place where people arrogantly slobber on their wine as you walk past them and their brave attempt to say hello is returned with a stinky look?
The Magic Kingdom. Nostalgia. A sprinkle of childhood. The place where magic still exist and all little girls can be princesses. Feed the fancy dragon ninety dollars, open its magic gate and he will take you back to a place where imagination still exists. Where grandma meets Mickey Mouse and dances around with Goofy. Where a tiny boy can be a real man, an inventor of the universe in the Space Mountain, and a frontier in just one day. Visit the saloon, shoot a turkey and eat its leg. On a stick. Watch that pirate, and that cannibal. For all he knows, you might be his dessert.
Daytona Beach. A long and empty stretch of sand. And a lively seafood restaurant dock. I observe a pelican while I suck on one of the best crabs legs I have ever had. It is Sunday and families and friends are enjoying their weekend. I listen to some of their conversations. Work, cars, insurance, hangovers, health, parents, children. Sunday conversations are generally the same everywhere.
Monday, the South. Savannah, Georgia. State of pretty names. Ray Charles, peaches and old trees. There is something in the air here. Character. Indefinable.
The shades of the old trees, light and darkness, dancing, chasing. Old haunted mansions and houses with lots of flowers. Friendly conversations and street jazz performances at the riverside. An old-fashioned candy store where a kind worker throws a handful of free taffys into my hands. The street and the river with the old Mississippi boat are behind me. A pretty postcard. Love from Savannah.