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Abai Kunanbaev, 1000 miles, and two continents

I love travelling, but jeeze, I’ve done a lot in a short amount of time. After my last post — a theme which, by the way, I shall be exploring at greater length in this blog in the future — I wrapped up the semester and headed to the United States for two weeks with a close Belgian friend. This was my itinerary: New York City to Philadelphia to Washington, DC to New York City to Boston (with a furlough to Manchester, New Hampshire) to New York City. That’s approximately 1000 miles, the majority of which was covered in a six-day spurt. I also backpacked through several of these cities, and by “backpacked”, I often mean running with 10 kilos strapped to my back, as I tried to make it to various appointments (I proved to be in better shape than I had realized).

It was a mixed experience. On the one hand, I was able to re-connect with many loved ones as well as several of my long-lost relatives. Once again, I felt that swinging by only once a year is simply not sufficient, particularly as my parents get older, but the inevitable frustration arises that I simply don’t have the time or money to go back every, say, six months. Frankly, I wish that I could just put all my loved ones into a suitcase and bring them back with me.

On the other hand, I was also reminded, in rather stark relief, why I’m simply happier being outside of the United States. The massive disparities in wealth and security, the extreme individualism coupled with extreme patriotism, the infrastructural decay and the post-modern yuppie condos, the insane amount of cars and obese people — and all of these phenomena mutually reinforcing, too — drove me batty within only a few days. There was also a strong feeling of powerlessness: this is just how the American system has become and shall remain, regardless of the man (or woman) in the White House.

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