Sambal On The Side

Published: Monday April 21, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Monday April 21, 2014 MYT 9:59:03 AM

Howdy Uncle Sam

So it was a toss-up between the Americas and our columnist is now labelling boxes ‘Washington DC’.

So we finally decided on a posting a little further north of Bolivia. Washington DC will be our next (temporary) home.

I required some cajoling as the city was blanketed by a thick layer of snow when my husband finally made his choice, underscoring the cold, hard fact that swanning about in slippers and floaty cotton clothing would be strictly limited to certain (albeit brief) periods of the year.

I must also admit that I had – and still have – my reservations about a couple of issues, namely gun violence and genetically modified food. Every time I see a headline featuring the former, I become uncertain. But then again, our mortality is the one certain thing in our lives. So, I guess it’s best to stick with the usual modus operandi: use common sense and live every day as if it were your last.

As for the latter, my husband did his homework very seriously the last time he was there and discovered a couple of places where one can buy produce that came from Mother Nature and not a test tube. Interestingly, one of the chains actually belongs to a well-known German supermarket chain.

However, he also cleverly dangled a few juicy carrots: no more language barrier (which also means much less editing of “Denglisch” and a lot more writing in English); English bookshops round every corner; the Washington Post; Banana Republic, Gap and Anthropologie; and finally, finally, non-dubbed TV. The additional mention of Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart kinda nailed it.

I know that this merely (and superficially) skims the surface. I’m pretty sure I’ll have plenty to write home about once I’ve properly settled in. Having never been there, much of what I know of and envision about the United States is gleaned pretty much from history, news and pop culture.

Anyway, once the decision was made, I did what I usually do. I bought a Lonely Planet USA and Googled blogs on living in D.C.

Some hard facts popped up. D.C. boasts bad traffic and a high cost of living. However, as a future city dweller, I believe I’m going to get nicely toned running errands. Coupled with the scarcity of German bread, I’m hoping that increased movement plus carb reduction will translate into less wobbly bits. The trade off for the higher cost of living would be free admittance to most museums and cultural sights. Bliss for an art and a culture buff.

Meanwhile, I’m also planning to take in as many sights as possible within our limited period of stay here – and there’s already much to do and see in my own new neighbourhood.

Topping my list of must-sees within D.C. itself is the Lincoln Memorial, site of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. I first heard his speech when studying Public Speaking and have gotten goose bumps every time I’ve heard or read his words since. To me, it is hands down one of the most moving speeches ever. To stand where he stood and delivered those spine-tingling lines, would certainly be a dream come true.

Given our strategic location, we obviously plan to venture further out, too. There’s the Big Apple situated about a three-hour train ride away. Not surprisingly the city is high on my list for shopping, theatre and taking in its sights and landmarks that were featured or mentioned often in two of my favourite series, Friends and Sex And The City. In fact, I just recently made a pact with a very dear girlfriend here in Frankfurt to meet her there and do breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Indian summers

Other places that I’m hoping to visit were either featured in my favourite books or songs. For instance, my husband was rather surprised when I told him that one of the things I’d love to see with my own eyes are the steamers on the Mississippi River, as mentioned in the Tom Sawyer series of stories. Or the “Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River” featured in that famous John Denver hit – which I loved as a child.

That aside, I’m looking forward to soaking in the Indian summers in Massachusetts, celebrating Thanksgiving with all its culinary frills and perhaps even joining a new music group in a city described as having “a robust music scene, with deep roots in jazz and bluegrass plus a reputation of cultivating new genres, including go-go, electrica and indie rock.”

But you’ll read of all of this soon enough. Meanwhile, please excuse me while I go label my cat carriers. Oh yes, the felines are coming, too.

> Brenda Benedict is a Malaysian in Frankfurt who is preparing for her move to Washington DC. She will be taking a month’s break from writing this column to arrive, unpack and settle in. The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Lifestyle, brenda benedict, washington dc

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