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First story from the U.S

February 1, 2000

Hi everybody,

(I'll be writing these reports in English so that my Swiss family can read them too.)

After boarding a plane that was grounded for 1 hour due to 'technical problems', not getting my luggage, missing a plane, 3 cancelled flights due to snow and a friend who couldn't find me at the airport I arrived at my new home in Somerville, Massachusetts. Now close your eyes and try to spell that.

My address, by the way is:

[taken out]

My e-mail address will stay the same.

My housemates (C: a german woman studying Neuroscience at Brandeis University. M: a german guy studying Public Administration at Harvard and Business Administration at M.I.T. C: an American woman working at the marketing department of a radio station and studying psychology in the evening) gave me a warm welcome and I gave them a box of Swiss chocolates to counter the German influence. I touched the right nerve (chocolate addicts) and they immediately liked me. Always works. It's and old Swiss trick that has proven to be a very effective method to stay friends with Germans.

I'll not write you an e-mail every day, but I do think the first day is different from all others in that it is the first. A lot of new impressions. First of all: my flight from Washington to Boston yesterday night. It was the night of the Superbowl. Superbowl is legalized gang fighting on a grass lawn with people sitting around yelling and screaming. It's in principle similar to what the Romans did in their amphitheaters, but the Americans invested another 2000 years of intensive research to reach an optimal stupidity level. Anyway, during the flight the purser spoke through the microphone. I expected to hear some information concerning the flight such as speed, altitude, expected time of arrival, etc. That was, of course, very naive. What she told everybody was an update on the score of the Superbowl. Every 5 minutes, that is. Everytime she did that, the result was massive booh-ing and yelling in the airplane which made me wonder how in the world these people built the mightiest and richest nation in the world, not to mention the hydrogen bomb. (I know what my father thinks now).

This morning I woke up at 6 AM after having slept 5 hours after being awake 24. Jetlagged. I took my dirty underwear (my suitcases where still somewhere suspended in mid-air, 300 CDs included) and went for a walk which was my second naivity. Walking doesn't get you anywhere in this city. Dutch blood forced me to buy a bicycle immediately. Boston is the 2nd most dangerous city for cyclists in the US, so I also bought a helmet, lights and a gun just in case.

In the Netherlands we have devices that show little green men so that people know when the chance to get hit by a car while crossing the street is slimmest. It's called a traffic light. They even have buttons connected to these devices enabling you to influence the system as a whole. I have formulated a theorem today stating that the buttons they have here do not connect to the traffic lights at all. Maybe they connect to other traffic lights somewhere else in the city. Maybe to a nuclear plant. Who will tell? I don't know. I have proof for this theorem (which is mine ... is mine): the light never changes from "DON'T WALK" to "WALK". Never ever. I waited for 3 minutes and then gave up. This happened a few times. Nobody ever uses these buttons.

I want to Bradlees today. Bradlees is a store. Think of a stadium the size of the "Arena" in Amsterdam and fill it with all the stuff Western civilization has ever produced. That's Bradlees. You need at least a car with a full tank to get from one side to the other in there. With that in mind, imagine me looking for a bottle of shampoo. When I finally reached the shampoo section I had another problem: there were 2000 different shampoos. After trying to understand the difference between all of them for 15 seconds I gave up and just took one and walked for 25 minutes back to the checkout. When I came home my luggage had been delivered.

Let me tell you a little bit about the house I live in. [...] street is a street on a hill. Quite steep. My house is a detached house with stairs leading from the sidewalk to the front door. It's big, very light and clean. Kitchen, bathroom, living room and a dining room with wooden floors everywhere in the house. I have to sleep in the living room now because Sven (the one moving out) hasn't moved out yet. I'll make sure he will. For that I'll be using another not so ancient Swiss trick that will appeal to him. He's German.

Tomorrow I'll be talking to my professor Frans Kaashoek at M.I.T. to hear what I'll be doing the next few months. I'm a bit nervous, but tired enough to sleep now. Next time I'll tell you about 'Click'. Click is the name of the project I will join.

Well... These were the highlights of the first day. I promise not to write an e-mail like this everyday.


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Updated: 2004/09/06