Archive for August, 2007

My visit to the US and Mexico……

August 31st, 2007

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June of last year, I lost two friends of mine. These events affected me deeply in that two lives can end so abruptly and it is like they never existed. It took me a long time to laugh again. After the elections, I felt like I was totally finished. I was drained and needed new energy, new ideas, new people around me. This made me decide to take 6 weeks off to travel to the US and Mexico.

I was going to do this alone with no family or friends, just the culture of “McDonalds” and sunny beaches. This would not be easy for me but I knew I needed the time and experience.

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My trip started in Colorado where I visited the Rocky Mountains and the Garden of the Gods, Pike peak, The Seven Falls etc…

I met Colorado’s Governor, Mr. Bil Ritter, Jr.

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      From there I headed to California where I visited Mr. Firas Jatou ( member of AAS ), Susan Nessan and Uncle Ninos; susan-in-san-jose.jpg

three people that I have known for many years. The Bay Area in northern California is very interesting.  The University of California-Berkeley was memorable for its historical significance in its role in the social revolution….uc-berkeley.jpg    you can still feel the energy there.

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I lived there four weeks in a low-income neighborhood. The common markers of urban blight of dirty streets and dilapidated buildings. The black youths in their oversized white shirts and gold chains. The smell of marijuana …

It all made a big impression on me and how it is to live there. Often I was too afraid to walk or cycle after 9:00 pm.  I had borrowed Susan’s bike and now I know the big and small streets in Berkeley, San Francisco and  Oakland.Los Angeles was a marked contrast.

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It took me to the fantasy world as I visited the landmarks–exploring Hollywood, seeing Madonna’s house, sitting in Al Pacino’s chair at Graumann’s Chinese Theater. The meeting with Mr. Zaya Younan was very interesting and listening to Mr. Ninos Aho was lovely.

 In L.A. I visit the Assyrian Genocide Monument and met the Assyrian community of St. Mary’s Church where we discussed the current situation of the Assyrians in Iraq.

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The weather in the Bay Area was not really warm so I decided to fly to San Diego. Old town and its great beaches stood out… beach volleyball and dancing salsa made me feel like a completely different person. The Latino culture in San Diego was great. I laughed with Vivian ( a friend ) and talked until morning. Of course we had some deep discussions about typical women’s issues.

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The heart of gambling USA is in Las Vegas — gambling, alcohol, drugs and prostitution are all over the place. This is also part of George W. Bush’s U.S.A. People sleep during the day and life starts after 10:00 p.m…. a real “nobody cares” culture. I quickly learned why it is called “Sin City.” Finally, I traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a very beautiful and serene place.

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All in all I had a great time during these weeks… I have learned a lot about the culture, history and political system of the USA. I also learned how to dance salsa and play volleyball on the beach. I met different people and some of them impressed me a lot.

 My idea about the USA  has dramatically changed  after I had the chance to spend time  and interact with ordinary Americans . It turned out to be that Americans are more  friendly, helpful and nice than what I thought. They offer help and assistance especially if they know that you are a tourist. My 4-week program in Berkeley was very interesting. The discussions I have had with some of  international students about the Dutch  drugs, prostitution, and abortion policies were very helpful. It showed me how people of different backgrounds look at the Netherlands and the quality of life we have in place here. I also have to mention the respect and enthusiasm they showed during our conversations. It was very impressive and helpful to talk to people from all walks of life. Americans in Berkeley and San Francisco are more different than most heartland Americans. They tend to have more liberal views on most of the issue that really matter to The US in particular and the the rest of the world in General. They are very keen to learn about other cultures and are open to different points of view. The gab between  the Rich and the Poor is very obvious in Berkeley and San Francisco. You walk through very nice, multi-million house neighborhoods but you still trip on homeless people every now and then ! That’s a very sad situation to happen in a country that “helps” almost every country  on the face of this planet but still can’t help it’s own citizens !

I also met  with some members of the persecuted minority of Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt during my recent US visit. They explained to me how they are treated as  second-class citizens in their own homeland of Egypt and the systematic and government orchestrated discrimination and humiliation the have to go through on a daily basis. The US might be a country of people of different ethnicities, cultures, traditions, and backgrounds but somehow they all seem sure to share one thing ; the love for their country, their flag, and being so proud to be an American ! 

 I was really fortunate to have such a great experience.

Thank you to all especially Susan, Firas, Uncle Ninos, Hany, Ninos Aho, Zaya Younan, Cohan and my friend Vivian Hermiz.

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Holidays in the USA

August 6th, 2007

Foto’s van mijn vakantie in de USA…. some of my holiday photos in the USA.

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