About

Dini

Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.

Archives

01 Jan - 31 Dec 2017
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2016
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2015
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2014
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2013
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2012
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2011
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2010
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2009
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2008
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2007
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2006
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2005
01 Jan - 31 Dec 2004
01 Jan - 31 Dec 09
01 Jan - 31 Dec 00

E-mail

Mail

Links

dini's site in english
dini's site in dutch
Veel meer columns
en nog meer columns
Leeskring
B9-Literatuur
Schrijverspunt

Search!

Stuff

Powered by Pivot - 1.40.7: 'Dreadwind' 
XML: RSS Feed 

« The last one | Home | Dear William »

This is America

Column Sunday 15 February 2004 It won’t happen very often that I’m writing a column in a motel room in Starke, Florida, USA. This is my second visit to the USA, this time together with my youngest son. This interesting, fascinating country. The part of Florida we are staying is not the most beautiful area. However, we’re not here for the landscape, but to visit our pen pall William, who has spent the last seventeen years on death row.



That’s why we do not mind the lack of natural beauty here. Although there are no high mountains nor deep valleys, the forest has a beauty all its own. Our motel borders such a forest, but I don’t have the courage to enter it. Apart from deer, you may encounter wild boars or even small brown bears, and that doesn’t appeal to me – no thanks! But one night I’m a bit sad when I’m awakened by the sound of a gunshot: there are hunters in the forest. Oh my, those poor animals! Indeed, this area is not the most beautiful part of Florida and there are few tourist attractions, but the native American store and museum are rather interesting. The lady behind the counter is of native American descent. She likes to talk, not only about the suffering of the Indians, but also about the America of today. She used to live in Miami Beach, which was beautiful and very different from this part of Florida, the southern part has no seasons; it is always summer. Miami changed when the first Cubans arrived and later the Haitians. These refugees escaped the dictators ruling their land and they tried to start anew in Miami. “They took over the land”, says the lady in the Indian store. The native population left and when the lady applied for a job and she was asked if she could speak Cuban, she, too, decided to leave. Because she lived in America. She felt that she should be able to speak her own language in her own country and that is why she now lives here. The peace and quiet of “the country” attracts her. She is happy here, but she would even be happier if the weather would be better. We’d have liked that, too. The first days were wonderful, but then it started to rain, and after the rain came the cold. No, the weather wasn’t cooperating those days. In the restaurant where we had dinner that night the waitress said to a colleague that this is “Dutch weather”, that only Dutch people would enjoy it. That’s how fairytales come into the world, because we do not like the wet cold and sogginess at all, we want the sun, just like the Americans, many elderly, who spend the winter here. You see them everywhere in the restaurants, large groups of them, the men wearing baseball caps, the women a warm jacket, and they all wear white sneakers. Although, the other diners like their sneakers as well, even the fashionably dressed ladies. What struck us especially is the large number of overweight people. Often, we fear the worst when such a large man or woman sits down on the chairs, but they appear to be sturdy, because none collapsed. And between the many heavy people you see the waitresses busily moving about, many of them very slim. America, the country of extremes; super heavy and super thin, filthy rich and dirt poor. We see the most beautiful homes and then we pass dilapidated places where you wouldn’t put up a dog. We see seniors, complete with cowboy hat and cigar, driving luxury cars, and we see elderly people working in the supermarket. Some work because they want to feel part of society and like the social contact, but it’s sad when you see eighty-year-olds working because they cannot make ends meet on social security alone. Many Americans work more than one job, often to qualify for employer benefits or to pay for the high medical insurance premiums themselves. Nonetheless, many can’t afford medical insurance at all and do without. Poverty in a country that spends billions on the war in Iraq and expensive space programs. To the Dutch way of thinking that’s hard to understand, but on the other hand, many Americans do not understand us either. Homosexual marriage, coffee shops where soft drugs can be bought legally, sexual education and freely available family planning methods – they just don’t get it. When we try to explain it doesn’t work. The gap between the conservative “American way of thinking” and our “progressive way of thinking” is too large. In a few days, we will be going home and leave this land of extremes behind. The country with the yellow school busses and the yellow ribbons around the trees. The trees... oh, how I love the palm trees. America, the country of, “How are you today?” And “Have a nice day”. Whether or not they mean it, I appreciate the courteousness. The Dutch could take some notes on that. America, with a church at every corner, but as long as death sentences are still given out and executions are still taking place there still is a lack of Christian forgiveness. America, this amazing country...it brings out so many contrasting feelings and emotions. But, already, I know that I will miss this beautiful, this crazy country, this country of much too much and much too little.

Text: Dini Commandeur, February 2004 translation: Maria O’Neill


 

Design and implementation by Focusys