Arriving in Michigan, it didn’t take long to be aware of the heavy circumstances that this winter brought. Even though the weather now seemed to finally get better, the reminiscence of the long and hard winter they have had here, were everywhere around me. The coldest and iciest winter in decades. Apart from loss of power that was so widespread that utility trucks from Florida were called in, especially the ice storm took a big toll on trees and nature in this area of Amerika. Everywhere you go there are broken and fallen trees, giving the sight of a hurricane coming through. Due to the heavy ice on branches and whole trees, a lot could no longer carry the weight of the ice that grew overnight and my sister Jennifer was fearful of the roof caving in on them since they kept hearing tree branches crack, tear and fall.
Coming from Holland, where the temperatures are a surprising 22 C (73F), it was a bit strange to see sunshine but at the same times see puddles of snow everywhere. It was a small sign of just how much snow had been falling over the last couple of months. I cannot imagine how people here have to drive through snow and ice to get to work and school, with no excuses and chaos that seems to happen in Holland when we get under an inch of snow. But even for Michigan standards it had been tough. Snow days (ijsvrij) are normal here a few times a year, but Josslynn (the oldest of my oldest Sister Karen), missed one week of school at one time, because going on the roads was just not an option. That or temperatures just dropped so far below freezing that being outside itself was dangerous.
Most people in small-town america don’t have city heating so they nare reliant on propane, and the demand being so high, was unable to deliver and caused prices to skyrocket. Granted, Americans have no real understanding of how to really save on energy and are just born and raised under the assumption that energy is an unlimited source available to them. Even though this country alone uses up more of the energy reserves of this planet then any other country in the world.
I have learned not to judge their lack of being able to be energy-aware, because I (and most people I know) were raised to know what uses more energy and what uses less. I was always raised not to leave any light on, or any unnecessary appliances running. It is normal for me to look at the energy labels of appliances and in general most people will know the difference between the energy use of a hairdryer or wash dryer. We close the doors behind us and have a small entryway before we enter the house, to keep the cold out. We turn the heat down at night and when we leave. Airconditioning in your house is not a commodity and we usually don’t keep the television on all day.
But so different is life in America. I have been to Sedona where the temperature outside was above 40 C and the humidity was 10%, letting your laundry dry in less then half an hour when you hang it outside. But I was staying at a house where the airconditioning was running on high, and they turned on the dryer to dry clothes (because hanging them outside is just NOT done), heating the house up through the use of the dryer and then using the airconditioning to cool it back down.
Of course cars aren’t very fuel-efficient here either, even though the recent price of cars have driven most Americans to look at the fuel-efficiency more. But I have to say though, even though cars are no where near as efficient as cars in Europe, they do seem to be lasting a lot longer then our cars, so somewhere in the strive for efficiency we have lost on durability of the cars, making me wonder what is worse: building new car or driving longer on less efficient cars.
But I am getting side tracked. I arrived here being welcomed by Jennifer, Mom, Evalynn and Nicolas. The latter being the latest, and likely the last, addition to the Pierce clan. Since I wasn’t wearing my glasses it took me a while to realise it was them staring at me only a few feet away :-). We drove through the remains of the winter towards Attica to the house that I still consider to be my ’home away from home’. It, as always, gives me a familiar feeling of safety to arrive there and realise nothing has changed … still….. Since I make it a habit to never stick with something too long, change is the only constant in my life. Arriving in one place where nothing changes, gives me an odd feeling of safety I rarely feel anywhere. It makes me feel comfortable and at home. The house hasn’t changed even though kids grow up, move out, and introduce grandchildren back into it. The house stands and stays unchanged through it all. I usually sleep downstairs in the bedroom I once called my room together with my two sisters that were then, 17 and 13. Officially the exchange program that I originally came over with, made it mandatory for me to have my own (private) room, but for me, sharing a room with two sisters made the experience even more special. I had never shared a room with two sisters, and since everything I experienced wasn’t familiar to me anyways, this was just part of my new surrounding. I never thought about it or missed my ’own’ room. Perhaps having two really sweet caring sisters helped too.
I spend the next few days with my younger sister: Jennifer, that during my initial exchange year, really didn’t get along that well but us both growing up, made the bond stronger and are able to appreciate each other so much more. For me it is refreshing to be in America. In some ways it has always felt more like home then Holland, making my feelings always torn between my ’real’ family in Holland, and the pull the United States have on me. Having such an awesome and caring family there to call my ’second’ family doesn’t make the pull any less. As soon as I arrive on America’s ground my system relaxes… I am home…
It will take about 3 -6 months here before I start feeling and missing my own family in Holland so much that I just have to return.. but the same opposite happens when I am in Holland for the same amount of time. I have learned to deal with my torn-ness between the two and just feel lucky and privileged that I am able to travel between the two.
But when you had a plane-ride that I had this time, in a very old plane in a 3-seat row together with two other, not so tiny people, combined with the horrid custom customs, I makes you not want to travel ever again. It is sort of (a mild version) of having a baby.. when you are in the middle of it you vow never EVER to do it again, but once the first pain subsided you are already diminishing the horridness of the experience.
I am here now.. and I am enjoying the family and the american life. I feel home… and I can relax. Here I am beyond time and space.. here I can observe life and have no obligations in it. This is my safe haven.. and if it wasn’t that it always makes me sad that I can’t be around this family all the time, I choose to just enjoy every minute… Not because I do so much to make more and a deeper experience. But by savouring every minute of it. Even though I might just be sitting on the couch, in my pyjama’s, while the day outside is passing us by…. I am content…..as I sit here right now, and as content as I am right now