America – Through My Taxi Window

A week. Views and landscapes flitting rapidly by…..my eyes, taking it all in. Welcome to America.

Forgive me if I’ve gone on too long about the virtues of a bucket list but I am a firm believer in having faith.

The bible defines faith as ‘calling those things forth that be not, as though they were’.

Bucket list #4: Go to America

10 years ago, I wrote a list at the start of the New Year. A list of 4 things I wanted to accomplish – be closer to God, enjoy my family, get a good job and do something creative. At the end of that year (2001), I had accomplished every single thing on the list with visible, tangible results. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t work for some people, but it does for me. It’s not to say that everything I’ve written down like ‘become rich and famous’ will happen. Well, actually, to me it does. To me, writing is taking a leap of faith; it is daring to dream and knowing I will awake with some hope that I will see evidence soon of what I believe.

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Thomas Troward expresses it so beautifully. He says ‘Desire will in due time externalize itself as concrete fact.’

So I write down my desires and I see them take form, shape themselves into reality and happen. And so by many twists and turns in a long road, I find myself on a plane to America. When I push up the shutters just an inch, all I see is white. As the plane bumps up and down, swinging its hips to turbulence’s dance, we slowly (at 585km/hour) drift into the lightest of grey clouds. Light pours into the section of the plane where I’m sitting on a sunny afternoon. I will not miss my first views of the United States of America, whether the butterflies in my stomach sway along with the wind and the Continental airplane, or not.

IMG_4016I want to embrace the ‘scapes of the land of freedom before touchdown. We emerge from the cotton wool haze and angry tufts of clouds line up, raised humps like camels with sharp, stubby toes. Like battleships, they seem ready for war, whether it be from wind or some other element of nature. In no time we get past them and the ground is suddenly revealed – the green of forests and the grey of roads and pyramid-tipped buildings fill my view, as do the shiny turquoise squares, ovals and circles of swimming pools.

IMG_3883Just before we land, I see a road that reminds me of when I was young and had a nice train set. The highway with its ten lanes, five on either side with tiny coloured cars makes me feels as though, like a child again, I can suddenly pick up my remote control and turn a car around, but I have to work on finding a car delivery company with Shiply first. I don’t attempt this, deep as I am in my reverie, but it occurs to me.

We land and I’m through customs, pepper soup spices and cookies declared and still in hand – my friends will rejoice. I emerge into the lobby of George Bush International airport and I’m in awe for two reasons – one is the presence of ‘superstars’, almost everyone I lay my eyes on reminds me of Hollywood, my eyes accustomed to years of American movies; and the other is the lack of shops, yes there’s a Starbucks and then a Wall street Journal shop and a few others but it’s not what I expect. I thought it would be teeming with stores……and food places.

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Outside the window, I see yellow taxi cabs in rows and many patterned Buick cars.  As I sit and wait for my friends to pick me up, I sweep my eyes around the hall and see mostly men in black…suits that is –chauffeurs waiting to welcome guests. The heat hits me as my brows drip with drop after drop of sweat and my forehead shines with anticipation and excitement. There is the man who reminds me of Denzel Washington, tall and towering in his black suit, tan shoes and black aviator glasses. With black curly hair and black leather gloves, he could easily, quite easily be a movie star. Just like the medium build, slightly stocky brown-skinned man with a wonderfully white panama hat. He walks with a slight limp, also in a black suit. Everywhere I turn, I see diversity – I see my American ‘sistas’, with gorgeous hair which I’ve always envied, walking, chatting, smiling. This is part of the America is top picks that I’ve always known and so somehow, I feel at home.

IMG_4114In the meantime, the only evidence I see of ‘large’ is a huge, tall drinking cup in the hands of girl wearing a yellow shirt and sipping on a pink straw. The top of the cup reminds me of a spaceship, or a planet for that matter, with its transparent dome. The rest of the cup is stepped, with the top half wider than the bottom. I smile. Supersize springs to mind and gives me a nod, showing me where I am.

I see loads of lakes and estates of lakes…….but it is nowhere as warm as I imagined. Still I am refreshed by it all.

IMG_4054My friends arrive, hugs exchanged and luggage in the trunk, we speed away, to grey, concrete roads that remind me of home in Nigeria, even if here they are larger and wider here. That came as a surprise to me, coming from the Netherlands where roads are mostly black and made of tar. I’m looking out with eagerness and I see space, space, space. There’s a lot of room. As we chat and exchange news about all the happenings since Christmas, I see green road signs. Pasadena. Sugarland. Daisy Ashford. Texas. Just like Nigeria to me. We get to Memorial lane and I’m stunned to see traffic lights hanging of electric power lines. What happened to the regular traffic lights with stands? I ask my friends and they say they also shared my wonder and bewilderment when they first arrived.

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I’m am intrigued by the houses made out of hard, dry wood.

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I try to stay awake to counteract the effects of jet-lag so I can go to bed at ‘bedtime’, and not now at 5pm, which is midnight in the Netherlands. I can’t though and I lie down for an hour. My friend wakes me up with news that the pepper soup and Texas toast are ready. I hurry down to a steaming bowl of catfish pepper soup with new russet potatoes that are perfect accoutrements for the soft and perfectly cooked fish. The potatoes make a superb replacement for the yam. After dinner and lots of chatter, I’m still tired and retire to bed. I’m out in a flash and up in an instant, at 4am. I can’t go back to sleep, so I grab a glass of water and read my lonely planet guide to Texas, the Houston chapter. When I’m done, I fire up my laptop to write….this…..and when I’m done, I return to my big yellow book ‘The Art of Possibility’.

In the week I’m here, I learn that Houston is almost a wildlife reserve…….. I spot a raccoon, a turtle sitting on some rocks and thankfully avoided all the (still sleeping) snakes.

IMG_4053I posed in front of Williams Sonoma and I cruised the aisles…

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…. spotting jars of pickled okro (okra to you). Yuck! I’m sorry but that strikes me as grossness in a jar.

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The sight of ‘fine’ utensils calms me down.

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I was extremely excited about my visit to Wholefoods. Again I came across okro, this time deep fried to make okro chips. While wrestling with my camera to take a photo of this weird and previously unencountered sight, a Wholefoods employee came up to me, thinking I was a ‘vendor’. I disabused him of that…..all the while still standing next to the jar of okro chips. He offered me some to taste and at first bite, everything was fine. Then halfway through I realized that it wasn’t going well, this taste experience. It ended up in the bin….and I happily spent my Wholefoods card, only going over by $2.
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I watched loads of TV – the food network to be precise. Chopped, Rachael Ray, Paula Dean and Cupcake wars. And I ate sweet potato pie. Every thought I had of it being horrible has vanished – I look forward to Thanksgiving this year when I will invite myself to the home of a true American wherever we are and have myself a wedge.

And I stopped by at both Target and Walmart, the later merely a tick box exercise.

IMG_3930I purchased a baster and a flavour injector at Target which I expect to use long before its Turkey season!
IMG_4563I’m excited I’ve now been to the US. Excited and planning a return trip that has me playing a guessing game. Though in my heart of hearts I think I ought to continue the journey of American discovery with NYC. Ney York City. But that won’t be anytime soon by my plans. I’ll have to finish all the Goldfish cookies before I return….

IMG_4643And ensure I use some of my amazon.com purchases. Take this small three-tier cake pan. I accidentally ordered two pans.
IMG_4646I got this lovely giant cupcake pan from TJ Maxx – it was a $10 steal.
IMG_4647As was my cupcake stand which I held gingerly in my hand …luggage.

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Ziplocs, a candy funnel and grilling planks…..

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But its my food gel colours which I’m thrilled about and have kept well away from my kids and their play dough/kitchen experiments!
IMG_4549I’ve also been enjoying my new books..
IMG_4475…discovering my roots.
IMG_4472I had a great week. Came back and didn’t feel too well for a whole seven days after. It appears as if it was jet lag. What a wimp I say to myself. This one trip knocked me out – so much for my richa nd famous jetsetting lifestyle. I won’t last a day!

Stay well. And more recipes anon.

27 Comments

  1. Oz, I can’t believe you didn’t try pickled okra..oh how delicious it is!!! I even wonder if I can grow okra in NL?
    I loved reading this post as an American in NL who gets homesick quite often and I have to second your thought…you absolutely have to visit NYC one day..the best the US has to offer(in my humble opinion).

  2. It sounds that you had a great & exciting shopping trip!

    The foodie goodies look great & thanks for sharing your experiences with us!!

  3. Thanks everyone for all your comments.

    Sarah@ Maison Cupcake, thanks for the great advice on the cake pans – I appreciate it.

    Its weird, in Nigeria we make an ‘eating’ soup out of okro with vegetables and spices and it is tasty…so its not like I totally hate okro. Its just the thought of having it vinegared or sugared that strikes me as odd…and gross!

    Alysha, Valerie, Rhonda, Mina, Norma: Thanks also for all the invitations to visit – believe me, I’ll be taking you up if I’m ever in your neighbourhood

    Conor, Shaz, Anna: I ‘ve been waiting for a while to get Stephanie Alexander’s cookbook – I have a great Nigerian friend (and naturalised Australian citizen) who recommended it!

    Sally, my bucket list does give me a lift, as does my list of achievements which I keep and review whenever I take a slamming! LOL

  4. Ohhh, I loved seeing America through your eyes, luv! 🙂 I’ve spent a lot of time in Houston, flying into and out of the George Bush airport. 🙂 My eyes are twinkling as you described the places and things that also baffled and delighted me when I first drove through that area. SO glad you had such a fun time!! 🙂

  5. I love cruising around the cookshops in foreign counries, and it looks like you bought back some fantastic goodies! Love the cake stand.

  6. I really enjoyed reading the highlights of your trip to America…thanks for sharing! You are such a creative writer & I know when I stop by…I’m always in for a treat 😉

    Take care…Denise @ Creative Kitchen

  7. I’m a whimp about jet lag and so sympathise completely. Wonderful adverture through your eyes. I have been described several times by different friends I have visited in new countries as ‘one of our most enthusiastic visitors’ – I think that this could describe you too! Reading about your bucket-list couldn’t be better timed. I’ve hit the doldrums recently for no apparent reason. I reminder and a wake-up call …so thank you.
    And pickled okra…..yuk no thanks!

  8. First the okra…gross is right. I treat food as an adventure, but that slimy thing just does not cut it with me.

    I enjoyed your trip and I wonder if you had to pay extra on luggage…LOL

    You must come to New York as soon as you can, I will be waiting for you at the airport and show you the sights.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  9. I just love your posts Oz., and BTW…., that’s one seriously cool jacket too, it looks amazing on you.
    I’m such a big believer in writing down my bucket list & things I want to do., I don’t know why (leap of faith as you say perhaps) but I’m often amazed to find myself doing something (or having the opportunity to do it) & realise the Universe has provided one more time….. its a great thing to do. Great post, thanks for sharing it with us.

  10. What fun. I can’t blame you for not liking okra – I dont like it either.
    I think that you visited a really open part of the U.S. – compared to where I live (California, SF) it looks very open to me even. I think when you visit NYC, you will find it to be very different in terms of the stores and food places.

  11. What a wonderful trip! My hubby just came back from Texas and I made him go to Walmart to pick up iconic American snacks I’d only heard about from comics. So he obliged and we had Twinkies (sorry, didn’t like it, quite gross), goldfish (yum!), goldfish wholewheat graham crackers (double yum!), reece’s peanut butter cups (oh my goodness yum), and marshmallows which we haven’t tasted yet. Incidentally, the marshmallows have a recipe for sweet potato pie on it which sounded ick, but based on your recommendation, I’m going to have a go at it 🙂

    And yay! You bought my favourite cookbook (The Cook’s Companion) – it’s a bit Aussie centric but very handy.

  12. What a beautiful piece of writing, Oz. I, too, set goals and “make them happen”. Once set, they are bound to happen. I don’t stop until I accomplish them, like you. But, I set achievable goals, too. This was an amazing journey. It kind of “shocked me” to hear the wonder and awe in your voice about “coming to America” as you live in the Netherlands which is exceedingly gorgeous… yet, knowing my husband’s family from Eastern Europe, they would share this feeling – and, probably anyone would who has never been here. It was just a surprise, as Europe is the creme de la creme for me. Mind you, Canada is vastly different that the US. In culture, more than anything. Well, we have even more open space. Should you ever put it on your bucket list, my doors are open to you. I would love to share my life with you as I think we both share that thirst for knowledge.
    🙂
    Valerie

  13. Once again you take my breath away and make me smile. Thanks for bringing me on your adventure! I can hear you talking to me! Thanks dear Ozoz. xx

  14. Love the little stand you bought. My time here in NL ends next Saturday. I have a bunch of pantry items to get rid of if you want to stop by this weekend and take a look and grab what you would like. I’m hoping when my shipment arrives in the states I might find the time to start blogging again. Keep up the good work. If your ever in the NorthWest look me up. Portland is a Culinary Gem you would love it.

  15. Canned okra…gross! It has been enjoyable to see Texas through your eyes. Don’t forget adding visiting me to your bucket list.

  16. Fantastic post, my dear! It was so much fun to read about America through your eyes. There is so much that I don’t “see” because I live here, and so it was a treasure to read about your wonderful experience. I am sure my experiences would be of equal awe if I were to visit the Netherlands.

    p.s. please put Seattle on your bucket list! I’m adding Netherlands to mine.

    xo – Mina

  17. I totally agree with you about the okra. You could plan a whole bucket list of places to visit in the US. Every region has its own special charm. Enjoy your American cooking treasures.
    Mimi

  18. I enjoyed seeing “America” through your eyes and beautiful photos. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. Now, don’t give up on NY. Put it on your bucket list. It’s worked before! 🙂

  19. I love holiday shopping trips! America is definitely on my bucket list and I hope to go in spring 2013 with my mom for our 60th and 40th birthdays.

    I have the same 3 tier cake pan – got mine from Lakeland over here. You’ve reminded me I’ve not used it for ages and ages – you have to bake the cake longer and cooler than usual as it takes ages for the centre to cook properly. Probably you’ll need to cover with foil to stop it drying out. The good news is that if you grease the tin well, it comes out quite easily. Then you have to slice the base flat so it stands up straight!

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