Saint Louis Landmarks: University of Missouri in Saint Louis

Another university I know fairly well. Don’t be thrown off by the long name, you can’t really pronounce it any other way than UMSL (Umsull). UMSL is actually the biggest university in Saint Louis, measured by number of students, and is placed five minutes from where Mrs Missouri works, so we’ve used their tennis court stands for our picnics, and their entrance driveway to make U-turns. Oh, and I once sent them an email to enquire about taking classes there (didn’t work out). So yeah, you can say things are pretty exciting between UMSL and me.

Although I have not been hanging out with their mascot lately. Mainly because they chose the devil to represent their school.

Although I have not been hanging out with their mascot lately. Mainly because they chose the devil to represent their school.

On a more serious note, UMSL is the biggest university in students (13,809), like I mentioned. Maybe it doesn’t have the fanciest name, most radio commercials, the most urban campus, or any of those other things, but it’s simply the biggest. The Target of universities, if you will. The main library is named after Thomas Jefferson, and I am going to suggest he didn’t donate the library himself, mainly because the school was founded in 1963. Their main programs are the Criminology and Criminal Justice program (ranked 4th nationwide), the philosophy program (ranked in the top 10 according to the McDonalds manager monthly Philosophical Gourmet Report), and some other programs that rank high in productivity, so evidently students are kept busy if nothing else.

This blog post is part of a series on landmarks in Saint Louis. Every week, I take one of the 250 landmarks selected for the 250th anniversary of the city and look up some information. This way, I hope to get to know my new city a little better every week together with you, my readers.

Visiting Michigan: UP and Munising

Mackinac Island was only a short stop on our way to the UP, and after half a day of cycling around and not seeing the Grand Hotel, we took the ferry back to the mainland and went further north. For those a bit unfamiliar with the UP, it’s that weird appendix thing on the map that looks like it really should be part of Canada. It’s bigger than the Netherlands, but only has about 300k people living there. As a result, it feels somewhat empty. Our instructions from Mackinac Island to our camping grounds were literally: cross the bridge and take a left turn. After 1h 16m, take a right turn, then a left again after 18 minutes, and keep driving until you hit your destination (don’t get off the paved road). Crossing over half the peninsula using just three very straight roads, people.

straight roads

On those roads, I learned a valuable marketing lesson. As many other more desolated areas I’ve seen (looking at you, Arizona and Morocco), a main point of commerce is to build a stand alongside the road and wait for someone to stop to buy the local goods. In the Upper Peninsula, this is pasties. We didn’t know what pasties were, but after seeing twenty stands selling pasties, we stopped at the twenty-first sign to see what this was all about. After taking a bite, we immediately understood why everyone wanted to get rid of them.

otterlake

Our camping grounds outside of Munising looked very picturesque (as seen in the picture). A crossbreed between a pond and a lake lay deep blue and still under wide skies, surrounded by trees and the best showers I’ve ever seen on any camping grounds in my life. In the town, we ate the best burger in a 100 mile radius (according to their menu), which turned out to be the only burger as well, and the worst I’ve eaten this year. The terrible dining experience was countered by the very cool hikes we took the next day, using the many waterfalls around Munising as attractions to visit. In short, if you plan to visit the UP anytime soon, go for the accent and the nature, and give up on fine dining as long as you’re up there.

waterfall

Cleaning Missouri

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m rather late today. To make matters a little worse, I have nothing else to give you. You see, miss Missouri and I just moved into a house. As you read this (whenever you read this) I’ll be cleaning that house. Once I’m done cleaning, or can afford to take a break, I’ll be back (I’m aiming for Tuesday, as always). For now, I present to you a picture of the new Visitingmissouri HQ:

About as exciting as last week's picture.

About as exciting as last week’s picture.

PMS Tea and the IRS: Impressions Of America

You would think I’d have plenty o’ stories about how it feels to be finally here. I don’t. Instead, there’s something that has hit me in the few days I was here (okay, that may be one of the reasons there’s not a ton of stories just yet). It’s something a little peripheral, maybe one of those details that strike you about a country.

You know, details like PMS tea

You know, details like suddenly seeing such a thing like PMS tea sold at Walmart

It’s radio commercials. Yeah. Not that exciting. But it’s such a shock to hear radio commercials for Planned Parenthood. We have the same sort of clinics, but they tend to operate a little under the radar (which, I believe is a good place to be for business that’s so personal and intimate). I actually worked next to a Dutch version of Planned Parenthood, which was sometimes a little weird; especially that one time there was a protest going on. It was a protest from a left wing political group, a protest with a party theme of ‘Rebel without a cause’, because there was no incentive or legislature to protest against. The protest consisted of one fat, middle aged woman in a bikini handing about flyers. One of those moments where you have to actively tell yourself that freedom of speech is a good thing, also for fat, middle aged women in a bikini defending the rights of an institution that nobody is actively disputing.

It's like the annual IRS protest; traditions are worth keeping.

It’s like the annual IRS protest; traditions are worth keeping.

Apart from my personal feelings toward what is promoted in the ads, I will probably be uncomfortable for quite some time with what American media deems appropriate and what gets filtered out. The lyrics from songs I knew from Dutch radio suddenly make no sense, because words that don’t rhyme came in the place of the original words. At the same time, you get the things that belong only in a doctor’s office yapped about on television and on the radio. Yesterday I listened a full minute to side effects of an anti-depressant that are basically enough to make you need the stuff. I know a lot of words in English that I am never allowed to say in public, but that I learned from American movies and series. I think Dutch culture is rougher, with less taboos, but also is more subtle about a lot of things in life. Maybe the tension just is reversed in both countries, making it all the more obvious for me. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Transitional Life: Privacy

First of all, I’d like to welcome to this blog my future employer, my secret admirer, a low-level employer at the NSA and of course whoever is doing my background screening at the Dutch consulate (not even a parking ticket, how about that?). If you’re looking for more, feel free to explore the recommended posts on the top right of the page. As you all know, I’m moving to the US in a few weeks. One of the things that is absolutely going to change is my privacy. I think there will be both more and less.

I'm assuming nobody is drilling any holes in their tablets, so that's a plus.

I’m assuming nobody is drilling any holes in their tablets, so that’s a plus.

The average foreigner may not realize this, but the Netherlands is a pretty crowded place. I’d say that town houses are the most common form of housing in the entire range of middle class homes. The streets are narrower than in the US and the Dutch don’t like curtains that much. This means that whenever you go for a walk, you can look into every single house. You’d have to use some subtleness, because it’s considered rude, but how could you not inspect people’s furniture, wall decorations and who’s picking his nose when the possibility is that clear? After all, everyone does it! In the States, this looks slightly different, so I strongly believe that this form of privacy will improve when I have my American house (curtains and all).

My uncle (who has been visiting Michigan and California for quite some time) managed to find this little gem.

My uncle (who has been visiting Michigan and California for quite some time) managed to find this little gem. I think the colored pictures are photoshopped, because this must be the 50’s.

The other form? Maybe it doesn’t even change that much. This never was a political blog, and I have no intention to start now. But I believe that in itself will tell you more than enough.