Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The US Dream

 I genuinly don't remember what I thought when I named my blog "The US Dream". Its an old phrase and had been used for a variety of purposes. For me, perhaps it's the dream of a traveller to see another part of the world, a country that we always talk about so much about. It may also be the dream of finding a home away from home. USA has always been the land of opportunities, acountry made entirely of emmigrants. How many native Americans still live in this country? Most Americans have their ancestors coming from a different land. Its a strange country full of stories of adventures and a wide variety of geographical features. Mountains at the top, oceans at the bottom, desert in the West, America reminds me of my own country, India.

When I first came here, I was rather disappointed. Cars seemed to be the only mode of transport. And buying one car was what we could manage. So there was no option left for me but to sit at home or walk inside the community. I could not go to a shop alone, neither could I explore new places of the town. Most roads don't even have footpaths beside them.

Now that I have been living here for a while, I have found that life is not so bad after all. I have hadmore time to spend on the net and have started writing on a number of websites. I have found that the Evansville public library is an excellent place from where I can lend books and DVDs.I used to take my child to the classes for preschoolers there. Now, however, she is going to a preschool and I wait at the library at that time, using the free net, reading and surfing through the books. I have also found that there is a public bus network which I use to bring my child back from school. There is also a supermarket within walking distance from my house. I am walking more which is good for my health. I am reading more which again is good for my health. I often felt so lonely in Switzerland without new books to read. And I am also driving more and better. I drive while taking my child to school. I also drive when Chiradeep is off to Mexico.

I particularly love to write at these websites. This has given me a chance to do what I do best and love most. I do not know about the dream and how long it is to last. But I am quite satisfied with my condition now. We have also been travelling and went to quite a few places.Last week we haev been to Chicago and had a quite good time there. I will be writing about the places I visited nn the US in my next posts. We have also planned to go to Niagara and are making arrangements now. And people who know me knows how tarvel makes me happy. Hoping that the tornadoes this week would not be severe and I would be able to share more travel stories in the months to come.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

New Diet Regime in US schools: Pros and cons

A new diet regime is being introduced by Government in US schools to combat obesity.
Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions in US. And childhood obesity is all the more dangerous. About 80% of obese children grow up to be obese adults at 25 years of age.70% of obese children (5-17 years old) had at least one cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and 39% had two or more CVD risk factors. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type II diabetics are some other side effects to name a few. Read more about this in my Technorati Article

There is also a strange stat about Obesity in US. Childhood obesity is more prevalent among the poor. Obesity also has racial discriminations. One among seven pre-school aged children among low income group is obese. The Center for disease Control data also shows that Blacks have 51% higher rate of obesity and Hispanics have 21% higher rate of obesity compared to Whites. In 2008, obesity prevalence was highest among American Indian or Alaska Native (21.2 percent) and Hispanic (18.5 percent) children, and lowest among white (12.6 percent), Asian or Pacific Islander (12.3 percent), and black (11.8 percent) children.

Complex as the situation is, it demands an in-depth analyses before any solution can be effective. However, all efforts are welcome. And the Governments initiative in raising the fund money for school meals and lying down a plan to offer them a healthier meal deserves real praise.
Children spend a lot of their time in schools.And once they are school age, they replace a major portion of their allegiance to their family by an allegiance to their school.They love to feel a part of their school and what is taught in school have a great impact in their life. That’s why perhaps we try to find the best schools for them. There is sure a much greater probability of their accepting a new food pattern in school than if it is suddenly introduced at home.
But then if home food doesn't change its pattern, then the Government's efforts we turn just futile. If what is taught and practiced about food and Nutrition at school be completely contradicted by parents at home, then the chances of success is remote.
So what is needed is an equal awareness among parents and a support from home.

Again, how much ever the parents and teachers may try to persuade, food must taste good to be liked. That is some serious business. To keep healthy food tasty, think beyond your limits. Vegetable and fish are part of most Asian meals. Vegetables can be prepared in hundreds of tasty ways. They just needn't be taken raw in salads or boiled and dipped in some unhealthy sauce. Think beyond your fast food line of thinking and I am sure there are plenty of tasty options in most cultures that also keep your diet balanced.

But food habits or change in it is not enough to fight this epidemic. Plenty of exercise and an active life style is the actual cure. Less of video games and more of field play can bring about a real change. Again, only schools can't bring about these changes. Awareness among parents and their willingness to actively participate in this war against the epidemic named Obesity is the actual need of the hour.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Health Care Repeal: but why do I care?

It was perhaps one of the best things that Obama did after becoming President.We may also say it Is The Best thing he did.Health care for all is a normal thing in Europe.But till last March US Government did not take responsibility for its citizen's Health insurance.And I personally had no idea about this untill last year when Obama made the announcement.I was quite surprised as I had the idea that this was one of the major facilities that made the first world countries different from countries like India.State provided health care facility is such a common thing in Europe that in some countries immigrants are also included in the free health care.In Denmark we had the check up and even the vaccination for our child completely free.In U.K I was pregnant and hence all my medicines and even the Ultrasonogram was free,let alone the cost of seeing the doc which was free for all.
So it struck me as a real news when Obama declared the law regarding Health Insurance for all Americans .The real news was not the law but its absence so far in a First world country like America.
And now Boehner and his pack are out to repeal it as they say that even a majority of common Americans are against the law.They also declare that the law is going to cost jobs and increase budget deficits.

But the budget office director says just the opposite.He says that the repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion from 2012-2021, the ten year budget prediction.
The Department of labour also reports that the US economy added 103,000 jobs last month and since the making of the Health Care Reform law in last march the economy has added a total of 1.1 million new jobs in the private sector,1/5th of which is in the private sector.
The Republicans are playing just nasty politics.Some 40000 Americans die each year for the lack of health insurance.And yet for their petty political gains they are playing this politics of gimmick.They call the health care reform a "job-killing law".They are just flashing this lovely pie of "more jobs" to accomplish their aim of turning all progress upside down. Women's abortion rights are to be taken away, the much awaited health care reform law must be repealed.And what is America going to get in return from them: "more jobs".

But why do I care?
After the Obama Government came to power, we have our visa process made more stringent.The usual L1 Blanket is being refused in 99% cases.And in L1 individual,90% cases get an RFE.That makes the process more complicated and long.The visa fees have also increased. No, I personally have no reason to be happy with Obama Government.
Only that when I think about it from the point of view of the American people, I find him a good President.Good things are not gimmicks.Jobs can't be made overnight. Whoever says so is not thinking of creating jobs,but only the ballot box.
And if the American people haven't lost all their senses,they will know better than believing that by repealing the historical health care law jobs would be created for them. This is almost like killing people for creating jobs!!

Useful links: Boehner dismisses budget office report
                 Budget Office Report
                Eminent Economist david cutler says
                Labor Department report

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Thanksgiving to New Year:The season of shopping madness

This is the season of shopping madness.
Shopping madness is nothing new to us Indians.The festivals like Durga Puja in West Bengal or Diwali in Northern India and the other different kind of excuses that we Indians always find to start our seasons of shopping madness are common knowledge to us.But shopping madness that I saw in U.S is still unique in a variety of ways.
The first thing that struck me that here even shopping madness is very organised.The whole idea of fixing a date for Thanksgiving is linked with this idea of organised shopping fever.Thanksgiving is said to have been first celebrated in 1621 by some pilgrims and some native Americans together to celebrate their harvest and say thanks to God.There have been scattered records of the celebration after that in some places after that for a variety of reasons.Later George Washington proposed a national day of Thanksgiving in 1789 but was not accepted by most of the colonies.It was Sarah Joseph Hale's continuous efforts that finally resulted in President Lincoln's proclamation of the national day of Thanksgiving as the Last Thursday of November.
In 1939, President Roosevelt changed the date to the Thursday of third week of November.He did this in response to request from retailers who thought that it would add an extra week to Christmas shopping thereby increasing their revenues.The world at that time had been suffering from the Great Depression for a decade and the Second World War had just started. Roosevelt,however met with opposition from most of the country and Thanksgiving was back to its original date.
This modern Thanksgiving,unlike that celebrated by the pilgrims have,hopwever,little to do with harvest.This is the official signal in U.S.A to start the shopping madness.
This brings us to the next day,i.e Black friday.
Now why is this day called Black Friday?This term was originally used to refer to a financial crisis that took place in 1869 in USA. The term was used to refer to the day after Thanksgiving first in 1966 by the philadelphia Police Department to refer to the traffic jam that was caused due to the huge crowd of shoppers. The term "black" in Black Friday also refers to the accounting practice of using red ink to show losses and black ink to show profits.The friday after Thanksgiving the Merchants would have no red on their books but just black,just profit.
But what strikes me most is how a day has just turned into an unofficial holiday throughout the country just because its the start of the shopping season!!
Although I have written in my last blog that I would not participate in this shopping madness, even I actually did.It was partly because of a necessity but more because of curiosity.
Well, I had recently bought a GPS for my car from Garmin but was looking for a better deal in this sale so that I can exchange it for something better.I actually got a GPS with Lifetime Map and Traffic which was 250$ the last week for 120$ on Black Friday. But as we have learnt from net and TV that the Black Friday deals are often for limited stocks and there is a mad rush that even results in many accidents,we were quite apprehensive.The shops were open from husband went to the shop at 5:00 Am and they told him no returns untill 10AM.He told me that Best Buy seemed to have grown smaller in one day as there seemed no place left to step.I was  excited.It seemed to remind me of New Market in Kolkata.So I went out partly for some shopping but mainly to soak in the excitement and the madness.
I have lived in Europe in the time of Christmas and I really felt they don't know how to enjoy a festival. In Switzerland I actually saw more madeness surrounding Montreux Jazz Festival than Christmas.
But here things are different.The Black Friday was just the beginning.Shopping madness is still on.The roads are so crowded in this small town that it is taking 1 hr to travel a 15 min drive.Everyone everywhere is talking about Christmas.I have been listening to merry Christmas from the last week.
There is no sign of recession in the shopping spree that I can see here.But then I thought who could tell that there are so many financial problems in our own country if they see the shopping madness prior to the festivals in India. Somehow this crazy energy and excitement surrounding Christmas that I see in this country makes me feel related to it in my own Indian way.

Useful links: Thanksgiving History and traditions, Thanksgiving wiki
                   Black Friday Wiki

Thursday, 25 November 2010

My First Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgivings Day in US.I really like this idea of thanking God for all that he has given us every year on a specific day. Last year this time I was in Switzerland.There you don't have Thanksgiving day celebrated in this way.Though you will find a turkey or two if you search the Swiss supermarkets , we have never seen any extra interest in people about these strange birds.
I really like this excitement about these old tradition and the way these people are mingling it into their own culture. People have been decorating their house with pumpkins,ghosts,witches and cobwebs for a month before Halloween.I have seen this custom of halloween in Europe;there also sweets are collected by children  wearing dresses. But the excitement with the custom seemed more here.Most of the houses in our community were decorated with these ghosts and pumpkins.I didn't see this anywhere else that we lived.And I really liked that.And almost one or two day after halloween people started decorating there houses with santa and wreaths.And almost all houses are religiously following this trend.If someone comes to this place for the first time from a different culture,he or she is sure to know that very moment that Halloween or Christmas is near.
Another thing that I really like about USA is the way shops remain open here till late hours and even on Sundays.In Europe,Sundays are really dull.All shops are closed and often the whole town seems to be sleeping with almost everyone inside their houses.And if there is a holiday then it is also a holiday for all shops and everything is closed.
Today,I went out inspite of the bad weather and for the first time saw most of the malls and supermarkets and shops closed. But I thought that was quite o.k.They are going to open the shops early morning tomorrow or even today night.
Perhaps I shall not really participate in the shopping madness that  takes place here on Black Friday.But I shall participate in this Thanksgiving by thanking this country.
Thanks that you keep your shops open till late so that I can go to shops after my husband comes home in the evening.
Thanks that you have such a nice public libraries here( Vanderburgh Public Library).The Vanderburgh Library has so many branches and there is no membership cost.They lend you 100 books and 5 dvds  and also offers such nice classes for children.I just love the library. Thanks again.
I can say thanks for a lot more things.I love the tranquility of my community.I love the AC that  I found installed when I first entered my apartment.I have paid a lot more for smaller apartments in Europe which have heating but no cooling.The duplex that I live in is something I really love.Thanks that I found this house.
I also will want to thank for the car we have bought.It is just what I wanted and just the price I was ready to pay.
I love my life here.What I have written about the worse side of things is not the whole truth.That was just my first reaction to the cultural shock that I had after coming here.
I still have hundreds of problems but today the mood is set for Thanksgiving!!