After much grovelling and "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease, she's my best friend and I haven't seen her in A YEAR AND A HALF!!"-ing, my parents acquiesced (Gina, that one should have gone in my favourite words comment last week!). You know what's terrifying at the age of 21? Taking $1,500 out of the bank IN CASH. Sure, I only had to take it about a hundred metres across the quad at uni to the travel agent. But it was still more money than I'd ever seen in one place at one time.
ANYRANDOMTANGENT. I boarded a plane on 12 June 2004. The flight to LA was long and dull, as most flights to LA are. Upon arrival in LA, I presented my visa waiver form to the guy at immigration, and this happened:
Him: [looks at state abbreviation] NE? Oh, you're going to New England!
Me: Um. No. I'm going to Nebraska. Is New England even a state??
Him: Oh yeah, I remember now!
After several uneventful hours at LAX, I boarded a flight to Denver. During the flight, I spent rather a lot of time wondering what the white stuff on the ground could be before realising that THE ROCKIES HAVE SNOW ON THEM ALL YEAR. Duh, 21 year old me.
The next day was a Sunday, so we headed to church (where I tried my hardest not to blaspheme or spontaneously combust) before driving back to Nebraska. It turned out that the church we went to (which just happened to be right by the highway, hence choosing that church) had decided against the whole Vatican II thing. So Megan, her mum and I were the only women there in trousers, and the only women without veils on our heads. AWKWARD TURTLE. Sitting through a full sung Catholic Mass in Latin while jetlagged is pretty much what I imagine being on drugs is like. The service went for TWO HOURS and eventually we had to sneak out so that we could get on the road at a decent time.
The rest of my trip was relatively calm compared to that! We visited Megan's college town, including lunch with a couple of her professors that included "Plastic money, whaaaaaaaaaaaaa???" style comments when I pulled an Australian $10 note out of my wallet. We went to the Omaha Zoo, which included this exhibit on the native fauna of Nebraska:
|Prairie dog (centre) and giant jack rabbit (bottom left)|
We drove up to St. Paul to visit Liz, one of the other girls from our study abroad days, and went out on a paddle boat on the St Croix river:
While in St. Paul, we also went to a bar where this happened:
Bouncer: ID, please.
Me: Sure! [hands over international student card]
Bouncer: [stares at card, then looks at me in confusion] What month is 25?
Me: Um. 25th of April?
Bouncer: Oh, I GET IT!! It's backwards!!
We also visited the Mall of America, which is basically obligatory for any trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I maintain to this day that if there's more than one of the same shop, it shouldn't count as the biggest shopping mall in the US. I did eat Dippin' Dots though, so it wasn't a total loss.
Back in Nebraska, I had a small heart attack when two of Megan's brother's friends turned up to show off their new gun. They burst into the house all "Hey, where's B-?", waving the new gun around. Which of course I (coming from Australia, which has, you know, gun control...) interpreted as "WE HAVE A GUN AND WE'RE NOT AFRAID TO USE IT. NOW WHERE IS HE??" and went "Oh God, please don't kill me!" Apparently it's still hilarious all these years later...
For the Fourth of July, we drove out to Denver to stay with Lyndsy. I was completely baffled by the notion of a drive through ATM, to the point where I got out of the car to take a photo of Lyndsy using the drive through ATM:
We also went to the rodeo in Greeley:
|Small child riding a sheep. Because why the hell not?|
And then played the world's most epic game of Cranium with a group of people that included Lyndsy's future husband and two of Megan's future bridesmaids. We had an "everyone draws" challenge where the answer was "A rolling stone gathers no moss." Fifteen minutes later, we were still going. Until Lyndsy drew the logo for the Rolling Stones, and I yelled the answer, and we all heaved a sigh of relief. (Lyndsy - we should have framed that piece of paper. Because it was BRILLIANT.)
And that was my first (solo) trip to the US. Well. Apart from the part where I promised my thesis supervisor that I'd do a ton of reading and write at least one chapter. I carried who knows how many photocopied articles over there with me, read maybe half a dozen pages of it, and wrote about 400 words. But that part was boring.
Oh, and because you're no doubt expecting it, here - have a picture of corn and soy beans and flatness. Stereotypical Nebraska!:
Did anybody else grovel for a plane ticket for their 21st birthday? If so, where did you go?