Siblog 48: East Coast tribes

Vacation! This Saturday Cornelia and I fly to the East Coast, to meet many of her family and friends. Two Boeing 737 MAX’s fly us to Reykjavik, Iceland and then to Dulles, Washington DC. These planes have disastrous reputations, but the first plane holds. Iceland is icy. We quickly get into the bus that transfers us to the warm airport. Over Greenland we experience some pretty hefty turbulence. The second plane also holds and we don’t lose a single door. Getting into the Unites States is the real ‘disaster’. Dulles airport border control has three tills open for hundreds of foreign passengers. I am so happy that I decided to stop waiting. Now I enjoy watching all these people from multiple tribes, trying to deal with the wait: silencing or distracting their children, checking their phones, calling their family, looking at points in the distance. I decide that I will approach this vacation as a Dutch anthropologist studying various American tribes. For them to understand my experiences, I write my siblog in English. Driving to Reston with Greg and Cornelia, I get initiated into the American McDonalds food habits. It is not my habit to eat chicken McNuggets at nine o’clock, but to be accepted as a participant observer I think it is better that I do.

To amuse myself, I make this trash can collage
Cornelia & friends

After a short sleep at Villaridge Drive we wake up to prepare for a welcome party in the Italian Oven on Sunday. Cornelia organizes it and it is a great success. I meet many members of the Cody, Goucher and Park tribes, but also Paraguayans and Ecuadorians. I speak Dutch with Huib, who came to the USA as a child. Although born on Frisian tribal soil, he speaks no Frisian. Italian pizzas and salads at the oven are good, and Jorge plays the guitar and sings Spanish songs for us. One of the main events is Cornelia’s bottle dance, a national dance of Paraguay. It is spectacular. I meet many people and at the end of the party I find sixty dollars in my pocket that were not there before. I have a suspicion who did that, but will not say. It is a great gesture from one of the American tribe members.

On Monday both of us wake up early, compensate our lack of sleep with tiny naps. Since I am repairing Greg and Dana’s sliding door, I need some tools from Home Depot. It is 3.3 miles, so I decide to walk it. The American tribe basically travels by car and many consider four miles too far. After a short discussion with Cornelia she decides to let me go. It is hot and I do not wear the right clothes. Dressed for Dutch coolness. I see many cyclists and pedestrians with short trousers and short sleeves. I have a great walk, spotting several members of the Animal Tribe, like bumblebee, a black snake and a red cardinal, the Virginia state bird carrying a beautiful song. Om my way back home a huge shower, hail and all, is supposed to soak me. Miraculously, at that point in time I arrive at a tunnel that offers me shelter. Over my head, cars rush through huge amounts of water. Next, the heavens start smiling again, pooring huge amounts of sun rays over wetted streets. I follow the Washington and Old Dominion trail.I am amazed by the power of nature in these lands, as I am by the power of the culture. Americans are true builders and engineers. The bridge below captures the way that is so leading in this tribe.

Colourful view on the trail
American Dream Way bridge, Washington and Old Dominion trail

That night, we have dinner with friends Cornelia knows from the travels of her father, who was in the Foreign Service Tribe. They own a beautiful house in Potomac, which has a beautiful eastern decoration inside: Boeddhas, rugs, embroidered screens, Chinese pottery. Lovely, it seems to taks us back in time. We talk about times passing by and I have a nice dicsussion with Jim about America politics, how I look at the American tribe as a European and what we should do about the world considering the state it is currently in. There are threats of dictatorship in this young democracy that worry Jim. Elections are coming, bringing two elders in the arena with totally opposite views on the future of the country. As a participant observer, this conversation is gold for my study of the American tribe. I learn about this tribe first-hand, from the inside out.