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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : United States (Part 4: East Coast)

The east coast of the United States... The business center of the country...

After the west coast and its slower life, I found myself in an emotional huricane when I finally reached the Atlantic side of the United States.

Boston, New York City, Philadelphie, Washinton DC... Everything is faster. Big decisions often influencing the rest of the world are taken from this part of the world.

This huge megalopole of approximatively 70 millions of inhabitants going from Boston to Washington DC is not without interest. This is an area where it is interesting to study the fact of this North-American giant turned into mass capitalism. Financiers, commercials, advertisers... Here is your heaven.

The bases of the american society are found in the Declaration of Independence. The american value of freedom is born there. “Freedom” or “Liberty” seems to be here a very important concept... We will come back to that in this newsletter.

The east coast appeared to me to be slightly different from the rest of the United States. We are mainly in a urban area, so the code and mentalities are of course different from the Midwest for example. Let's see how.


From capitalism to individualism

Everything starts in a hockey arena in Portland, Maine. This is the halftime. A man is walking under the roof. He is carrying a bag.

Five people are on the ice rink They are waiting for something. They all have empty bags.

The goal of the game is to win 10000 dollars. The man from the roof is emptying his bag on the rink and 10000 bills of 1 dollar are landing on the rink.


The person who is collecting the most on the rink is winning the contents of his bag.

This moment has been for me a perfect metaphore of the importance of the green bill in the United States. Money is ruling here, like anywhere else, but it has also almost been promoted to a level of “godification”.

So, did we get there? Have we reached the time when our goal in life is to accumulate goods?

It seemed to be that on this ice rink, the attention was also focused on the possibility to win a car. That was even better that its size was huge.

The most-wished-car of the night


“To have more money than the neighbour”; that was appearing in this Megalopole like a definition of “difference”. Yes, you will be judged on this scale: you have more or you have less... So let's say that for a hitchhiker with two poor backpacks...!

 

The advertisement

The advertisement is an art in the United States. Even if you are sceptical about its usefulness or the amounts of money spent every year to promote some goods, that won't change many things... Here, the advertisement has every “rights”.

As capitalism is leading to consumption (or vice-versa), this is important to direct the desires of “our very kind buyers”.

Here, no limit, we don't hesitate to pub 15 advertising breaks in each movie on the television ( I even counted up to 17) or to even take off some parts of the movie to do so!

The “naming”, do you know?

This is a concept that recently arrived in Europe. The goal is to name or to associate a name of corporation (or any kind of society) to buildings, competitions, or other events.

In England, you maybe already know the “Barclays Premier League” in soccer. Here, we even go further, by giving straight away the name of the website!

In Manchester, in New Hampshire... Welcome to the “merchantsauto.com “stadium!!!

Grandissimoooo!

Owning more, doing better, doing bigger, greater, that's like a source of motivation in the United States. I had already seen that in Texas with their device: “The biggest, the greatest

In this Megalopole of the east coast, which is synonym of urban area, we will get to the construction field, so be ready!

Louis-Ferdinand Céline was telling us in 1932 in « Journey to the End of Night » his first sight of New York City : « New York c'est une ville debout » (« New York is an upright city »).

New York is indeed beyond the imagination. This is an anthem for the extra large, for the disproportion.

This is an example of the desire of the men to always doing more, as used to be Constantinople and Rome in their time.

Panorama of Manhattan, the heart of New York City


With such a sight, you can guess that everything is not miniature inside. Strolling in the streets of the “Big Apple”, this is finding yourself facing “the tallest” this or “the biggest” that. For example, the largest store of the world, or how to mix super-building and super-consumption.

Macys, the “world's largest store” on Broadway in New York City


Unfortunately, the United States doesn't have the record of the highest tower, even if the Empire State Building is impressive enough with its 443,5 meters (with the antenna).

By the way, the record has been beaten very recently by the Burj Dubai in... Dubai... 828 meters high, do you realize?

Click here for Video Burj Dubai

And the roads?

You can imagine that in this kind of huge urban area, there is an important population. Now, look at those incredibles statistics published by the US Bureau of Transit Statistics: “In 2003, it was 196 millions of registered drivers. The same year, it was also 231 millions of vehicles legally driven in the country... Which means that there is more than one vehicle per person.

We are far from Tanzania, when 10 people could fit in only one car!

Because of that, the roads have to adapt to this impressive automobile market. A picture will give you some ideas.

In New Jersey, I can count on this picture 4 lanes on the road the more on the left. The same road but on the opposite side has 7 lanes. Add to this the 4 lanes on each side of the road the more on the right. Make the total: 4+7+4+4= 19 lanes of vehicles for two roads going in the same direction!


Hitchhiking on the east coast

I let you imagine now how to hitchhike on the kind of road... No, I am joking, this is just like in the rest of the United States there!

Prohibited to hitchhikers


Let me describe this sign into detail. You can exactly read “Prohibited on the Highway: pedestrians, hitchhikers, bicycles, motorscooters, animal-ridden driven or led, farm equipment over 96 inches wide”.

I think they should have let a book of law next to the sign to know exactly every rights we have, especially if it is to mix in the same sentence “hitchhikers” and “animals”.

That's more or less the feeling that I shared in the eyes of my drivers who often passed in front of me without stopping when I was hitchiking. I am also suspecting that some of them were even sending me the cops to verify the legality of my situation.

Another number illustrating this fact: since July when I entered the United States in Texas, I have been stopped 29 times by the police, 28 times in the United States and only 1 time in Canada.

However, some people stopped. Disregarding the propaganda of the medias, I am even respecting more their bravery.

Let's take the example of Kyle, here is his picture.

Kyle somehow learned that I was in the city of Newark in Delaware and that I was going the next day in Washington DC at 200 kilometers. In one way or another, he knew which way I was going to take to get to the place where I was going to hitchhike.

Kyle, who liked my project, put a day off and start to look for me in Newark. I finally found me after 30 minutes driving around and offered me a straight lift to DC, where he didn't have any other reason to go except for me.

A country of contrasts

Fortunately and unfortunately, there are many contrasts in the United States and so on the east coast.

Fortunately, for the diversity that can come with it. Indeed, how boring would it be if the society was completely homogeneous and where everybody would be the same!

Unfortunately, because those contrastes are an advantage for a minority or people and in a certain way... That is against others.

For example, let's talk about education.

II had the opportunity to visit the prestigious University of Harvard close to Boston in Massachusets.

The Widener Library of the University of Harvard.


The american system of education is extremly expensive as you maybe already knew it.

To enter this kind of university and to get a diplom there is of course helping a lot to get a very good place in a future professional life.

But even if you are accepted for studying there, you will have to pay an annual tuition.

To give you an idea, according to the website of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard, the annual tuition for 2010 was 48868$, including everything. (Link of the information)

You only can get a diplom by having studied a minimum of 4 years. So yes, to graduate in Harvard, this is almost 200 000 american dollars that you will have to pay... compared to the maximum of the annual maximum of 12500 euros in Sciences-Po Paris. (Link of the information)

Of course, everyone is not able to pay this amount of money. I had the chance to meet the class of an education program in Harlem in New York City, who of course cannot pay for Yale, Berkeley or Stanford.

This meeting will be explained very soon in the part “New Leaders” of this website.


The american believings

The concept of liberty

The liberty is a very important concept in the United States. The concept of liberty is indeed one of the most important word of the “Declaration of Independence of the United States” signed the July 4th 1776, according to the text itself: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It is today possible to see many signs reminding us this right:

Il est aujourd'hui possible de voir de nombreux signes nous rappelant ce droit:

-On the license plates of New Hampshire :”Live Free or die


-On the “Freedom Trail”, this red line going through different historical places in Boston.

The red line


- The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, which would have ring after the signature of the Declaration of Independence.


Belief in the State or patriotism

The State is important for the american citizen. It is celebrated as much as possible, to remember the reasons of its creation.

At a certain extent, you can find a representation of the celebration of the State at every sportive events, where you can hear the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

The american national anthem is sung by a choir before a hockey match in Maine.


This is also possible to find the Star-Spangled Banner at every street corner in the United States, like here in Manhattan.

Some United States flags in Manhattan


According to some peopl, God bless America. The patriotic hymn “God Bless America” is maybe more heard than the “Star-Spangled Banner”.

I have been able to witness many times the expression “God Bless America” on stores, in the streets or even on some stickers.

“God Bless America, Power of Pride”


A sight on the east coast

Naturally

Before to let you, I wanted to share with you some interesting places that I had the chance to pass by while I was traveling through the east coast of the United States.

Of course, I tried to not miss the Niagara Falls, on the border between the United States and Canada.

The Niagara Falls during the winter, with its frozen river


The winter which allowed me to beat my record of cold in the New York State with -22 degrees Celsius.

Here we can see a high level of snow in Burlington, Vermont.


The sunsets close to Canton, New York, were stunning.

 

Culturally

Here is a little melting-pot of certain facts that I could see quite often along the east coast.

The yellow cabs, a common sight in New York City!


You maybe know about the north-american restaurant called “Diner”.

Here I am with the staff of a diner in the village of Waterloo in Upstate New York.



All right, I am letting you for today, because my visit of the east coast is coming to its end. I am today in Washington DC, where I found myself today in front of the “United States Institute of Peace”... Yes, I know, it is still under construction, but what do you want, it is just next door to the Navy department!


See you very soon,

Jeremy



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