Monday, 23 April 2012

bye bye miss american pie...

Tomorrow we'll cross back into Canada, leaving America behind us. Sitting here tonite, in the kitchen of my auntie and uncle in Philadelphia, I find myself reflecting on the journey over the past several days with Mum and Dad.

In many ways, it has been a journey around a diverse and complicated place... at the level of human lives and various environmental and urban ecosystems, this trip has covered a vast range. We have stopped at Buffalo, NY; Chardon, OH; Sturgis, MI; South Chicago, IL; Chicago, IL; Grant Park, IL; Columbus, OH; Nelsonville, OH; Charleston, WV; Charlotte, NC; Lexington, VA; Washington DC; Gettysburg, PA; Phildelphia, PA; and (tomorrow) Ithaca, NY. An independent bookstore in Charleston, a diner in Gettysburg, a home beside a pond in Charlotte, a Chinese takeaway shop in Maryland, a Bakery in Chicago, a cafe in Virginia, the original home of buffalo wings in, yes, Buffalo.

In many ways, it has been a journey around family: graveyards, sites of significant occasions, cousins we had never met before, relatives we know and see when we visit each other in various countries. We've seen photos, churches, letters, and tombstones. We've shared stories, gossip, hopes, tears and many, many laughs.

In many ways, it has been a journey around a nation: a complex, tricky, compelling nation. We've tracked our way through various states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, West Virigina, Virginia, North Carolina, DC, Maryland) and have noted the names of an even wider range of states (and Provinces, at times) on car license plates. We've been at key sites of the American Revolution and the Civil War; we have seen the White House and its kitchen gardens, as well as trailer parks and Walmarts; we have been to Museums that describe what feel like completely different countries. We've struggled with the massive chasm between the values of humanity and equality the Revolution and Civil War and the reality of various communities in the US. Today, Alyssa and I went with Mum and Dad to see the 'Liberty Bell' in Philadelphia, and I couldn't help but think about the large crack in the bell which had been there from its first inception, and the kind of metaphor a cracked Liberty Bell might be.

Alyssa and me at the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia.

In many ways, it has been a journey in my relationship with my parents: 'putting memories in the memory bank,' as I am too keenly aware than my decision to move to Hawai'i means I will be visiting them, rather than living with or alongside or near them, for a few years to come. I discovered new things about my parents: Mum loves popcorn! Dad is interested in the Civil War! I also affirmed, confirmed and extended things I already knew about them. They are wonderful and amazing and very fun. I will never forget driving through rural Indiana with them, listening to a radio station dedicated to crooning 50s music...

In many ways, it has been a journey of journeys: an SUV, maps, printed out and handwritten mapquest directions, drive thrus and service centres, filling up with more gas, reading the north/south/east/west orientation as well as temperature of the car, phonecalls & stops to seek directions, sleeping in the backseat, chatting in the front seat, bottles of water and paper cups of coffee.

In many ways, it has been a journey of America. As I've had the chance to get to know myself and my parents better, I've had a chance to get to know this place better too. For the first time, I've been travelling around the US with a sense of being an immigrant: from my arrival in late July this year, this will be where I live, who I am, what I know... For better, for worse, for histories, for family, for Liberty and for its flaws.

I'll see you soon, America.  

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