Thursday, February 24, 2005

It's the 3rd day of school...

And where are the kids today?

At home, watching TV, in their PJs. It's a snow day!

The weekend was so nice. Really, in the 40s and 50s and pleasant. A little breezy but that's OK. Then this morning *whomp* Snow.
Katherine was the last one up, even though I didn't actually crawl out of bed until 9:30. Hey, I was awake at 7 and had watched the weather report, I knew schools were closed. Ian still had class (no break if the Fed gov't is open) so he was out in the snow drifts at 8. But Katherine woke up, puttered around, worried about being late for school and finally, finally, looked out the window.
Commence the shouts of "It's snowing! It's snowing!!" While I am in no way looking forward to leaving the apartment, missing the only snowfall and chance to throw snowballs would kill the kids. So I'll suck up the misery of being cold and wet and we'll go out together. This afternoon. See, my thought is that if I took them this morning they'd be begging again by lunchtime. This way I can say such things as "Let's see if the flakes slow down a bit later" or "It should be a bit warmer this afternoon" or "If we wait, there will be more snow on the ground to play with." All of this leading from the hope that if we go out this afternoon we can play enough that we won't go out again. Sneaky? Well, yeah. But anyone who knows me knows that cold and I do not agree. If Ian were home, HE would take them and love it. Since it's plain old mom, they'll have to go on my terms.
I'm glad I went to Harris Teeter yesterday. Did you know that the one in Ballston has -2- floors? What kind of grocery store has 2 floors? Complete with elevator to fit two shopping carts. While the size of the place and the options (15 kinds of pickles? are people really that picky about pickles?) were overwhelming, even more surprising is the openness and friendliness of the people. Not just in the store, obviously, but everywhere.
You're probably thinking me mad. People in the U.S. open and friendly? Common man will walk by on the sidewalk and never give you a second look, you say. But wait, hear me out.
In Manila, everyone noticed us. We couldn't walk down a street without people ahead of us turning around. Jeepney riders would stick their heads out the windows to stare. Girls would giggle and talk to the boys and try to touch them. We were, I've said it before, spectacles. When asking anyone anything, we were always treated as superior, folks would scurry about pretending to do our bidding. Everywhere we went people would smile huge, vacuous smiles.
Here, none of that happens. And what a relief. People smile, and it's genuine. Store workers laugh and I know that it's partially -at- us (which to a lot of people would irritate them), but what it means is that they see us as people, not as odd beings. Everyone is helpful. If we ask, we get an honest answer and then some. When I inquired at the Barnes & Noble counter about kids' storytimes, one girl directed me to another counter where there were pamphlets, another girl found one at her station and brought it out to me and gave a direct answer to the specific questions I'd asked. On Friday, Ian and I had lunch at Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon. Or waiter was a friendly guy who did his job, gave suggestions, took our order and when we changed something gave us an "Absolutely". Ian commented that not only would I be getting my chili, that cheese would definitely be on ithj
There's a paper trail a mile long on everyone here. There's an electronic trail too. A system of checks and balances is everywhere. It's behind the scenes, but palpable and for us it's reassuring. I can see why it would bother so many Americans who are used to being left alone and being trusted "just because". But we just arrived from Manila where no one is trusted and the paper trail is handwritten ledgers and the system of checks and balances is a group of four salesgirls behind every department store counter. Americans aren't perfect, but we believe in ourselves and in our fellow man. Sure, there's a camera to back it up but I'm an honest person and I like being treated as one. I guess you could say it's a bit confusing. I'd rather have a camera watching than 14 sets of eyes staring.
Ian and I are getting a better appreciation every day for the mandated Home Leave, which we'll officially be taking in August. We are loving our time here and the freedoms of just being able to Be. We have friends and family. The option of anonymity is a valid one. Everything and everyone is fast, bright, colorful, clean. I know part of it has to do with the area (northern Virginia is amazing, IMO) but when we drive west it will be variations of the same.
I'm happy to be Home.

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