Thu 9 Mar 2006
I didn’t write anything for a few days as I was mostly moving around and didn’t have an easy access to Internet – only yesterday I did figure out how to connect my computer through my hosts’ cable modem. In that time I drove more then 630 miles / 1000 kms, walked extensively through the center of Washington, DC and made a drive along the Chesapeake bay’s Maryland shore down to Point Lookout. I don’t think it makes sense to list all the things I did see, instead I’ll share with you some of my thoughts.
Driving here can only be compared to Germany, except in Germany the normal traffic on highways goes at around 95 mph / 150 km/h. Here most people would go up to 10 mph over the speed limit – but no more than that. On my 300 miles drive from New York only once I saw someone going way faster. Once. From European – and especially Polish prospective that’s unbelievable. The roads are generally wide and in great condition, the drivers not only stick to speed limits but are in general polite and traffic goes smoothly. Of course, I wasn’t moving around in the peak hours along with all commuters, but from what I saw I don’t think on average it gets more aggressive or nasty.
Americans are usually very friendly. In Washington, maybe because of its size, people not knowing each other would greet or even engage in brief conversations, exchange jokes etc. I walked around Washington, DC with one of my friends, he told everybody along the way who he was and who I was and people asked some questions, offered advice about things to see and were genuinely welcoming and friendly. It might be rather shallow, but I definitely prefer shallow friendliness over cold, stiff indifference or, even worse, open hostility.
The other thing is the number of wild animals living in inhabited areas. In Prince Frederick, where I was staying, houses are mostly scattered in woods that could hardly be called a forrest and yet every morning a see a dozen of different birds come to the feeder in the back yard. It’s amazing! In Polish countryside what you’ll get, apart from domestic birds, would be a bunch of crows and maybe a pigeon –
very rarely a hawk. Here I have seen already about half a dozen of predatory birds, mostly hawks.
I have more observations like that and once again I have to say that I like America. I think Americans should travel more overseas just to appreciate more their own country – if not for any other reason. In most cases they don’t know how lucky they are to be born here. Most people I meet here have never been to Europe let alone Poland. In the age of jet airliners it surprises me – after all it’s not four weeks on the North Atlantic anymore, it’s just nine hours of flight and two days of jet lag, yours for about $450 and yet few seem to use it. So if by any chance you’re reading this and you are an American – do get a passport, if you don’t have one already, and do go to Europe. Be sure to tour the Eastern part as well. Your outlook on the world would never be the same.