It was quite unexpected. I fell in love with the U.S. of A.
It was totally out of character for a self-confessed nationalist, History teacher who believed with all her heart that her destiny was entwined with that of the nation’s.
Maybe it was the cool, crisp air of Texas that bit my nose and my face while I was walking wearing two jackets. One could get used to the sun-and-7-degrees-Celsius combination. It was like walking around a centralized air-conditioned outdoors.
It was a 10-day trip including travel time so it was quite a short one. “Bitin” (lacking) as Filipinos would call it.
One thing that struck me in Lubbock, Texas and in California was the discipline of the drivers, motorists and pedestrians. Everyone seemed to give way to each other out of courtesy. It is quite the opposite here in the Philippines where everyone is always raring to go, everyone wants a piece of the road and NOBODY WANTS TO GIVE WAY.
A nation’s culture is reflected in the citizens’ driving. It is quite a trivial standard of measure to use but true. I thought about how they drove there and thought to myself if the way we drive translated to economic success as a culture and society, reflected in social relationships, and courtesy (or the lack of it) in how we treat each other.
The days after the trip was challenging. I could not commute without getting mad at the drivers here. You see the stark contrast between two cultures.
It brought to mind what Jose Rizal wrote about comparing Manila and Spain during his travels as the historian Benedict Anderson wrote in his book, The Specter of Comparisons. Rizal called it “demonio des comparaciones”. For the foremost ilustrado, he could no longer see Spain without seeing Manila and the opposite holds true.
Yes, three weeks after my trip, I am still haunted by this specter of comparisons.
I miss the cold-but-sunny weather, the road discipline, the courtesy in which strangers treated each other and most of all, the food in the U.S.
Someday, I will be back.