“Hey y’all! Welcome to Hickory!” bellows a thick Southern accent. “What brought you to Hiiickory???”
So I have landed myself in the “Bible Belt”, the heart of the “hospitable South”. An authentic American experience. A deep insight into the psyche behind the democratic public of what many consider to be the global superpower of our day.
“You’ve seen a Western movie right?” asked my friend. “Well that’s America. Cowboys and Indians. Cut throat. Last man standing.”
Learning of the division between rich and poor contained within the country, slums in every city, 20% unemployment in the town I’m in, the lack of public health system, which is in part due to individualistic pride caught up with the dominating capitalist ideology that considers sharing of public commons a form of communism.
There are A LOT of churches, almost one on every corner. There’s a crazy number of massive empty parking lots. And there’s drive-through EVERYTHING, from Starbucks to pharmacies to laundry mats. The only think you can’t drive-through is bottle shops (which ironically is the most common drive-through in Australia). Go figure.
I’m pretty sure I’m the only Australian in town, and most likely after one month I have a reputation of being the weird tall Aussie that walks a WHOLE 30 MINUTES to the supermarket or work… sidewalks are sparse but enough to get around. Sometimes they just end.
Still mainly via foot, though sometimes in the cars of my generous friends, I’m getting to know the town – the bagel shop, the Lowes supermarket, a healthfood shop and local farmer market (thank GOD!), the YMCA gym, a cinema with $2.50 movies, the pubs, darts & trivia nights, and most of enjoying a taste of all the famous “southern hospitality.”
There are many things that will take time for me to adjust to: communication, for one – people talk with a lot of colloquialisms, and slang I can’t understand. There is a tendency to talk over or at people rather than with you. It’s just a different way of communicating – something I’ve been taking notice of in different cultures, particularly since my “having a yarn” with Indigenous Australians. A calm exchange of stories over a little weaving is the polar opposite of American culture where, at least when you’re in a group, no-one gets to finish a story, and short attention spans entice a ping pong style bouncing between an eclectic array of topics. Cell-phones trump face-to-face communication, at least for the most part.
The food is greasy, and even healthy food seems to taste processed. Apparently they add MSG to a lot of foods. Even the water tastes different. At first I couldn’t drink it it tasted so chlorinated, but in time my taste buds are adjusting – I hardly notice it anymore.
I have spent this first few weeks living in a roomy house with a crazy Colombian zumba teacher who on special occasions cooks up her “Arepas” – a Colombian corn-cake – that tastes like, hm, kind-of a healthy sweet but savory corn-chip/tortilla cake. Made simply by kneading together corn flour, water, cheese and salt, and frying it like a pancake. Delicious!
Her Colombian energy was contagious: late nights, early mornings, siestas, exercise very day, music… I love the South American way of life.
Overall Hickory is green, hot, humid, quiet and quaint. This last few weeks I have had time to read, to write, to edit, to think, and to revamp this blog.
Over the next few months, besides teaching a humanities subject “Storytelling” and co-teaching a philosophy/political science subject on War and Peace, I hope to finish a lot of projects that Sydney’s social and work distractions have kept me from.
In the sports clinic the other day, where the most lovely sports staff are helping the repair of my legs (still from the scooter accident), I read a poster that said:
“Success is a journey, not a destination.”
I thought it was a nice reminder to, where we can, share life’s journey and successes with each other along the way.