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OE USA: A New Zealander's Travels in the US (Part I)
An OE (Overseas Experience) is something of a cultural tradition among young New Zealanders and Australians, generally undertaken in the early twenties following a degree and a couple of years’ work experience. We save some money, cut our ties to our homeland, pack our back packs and “get the hell out of here” to see the world.
As announced on the Conference announcements discussion list, I was able to commence a three-month tour of the US with SOLO Conference 4. I write from a motel room in Austin, Texas, having been in the US for just over a month. During this time I have been up and down the US West Coast, attended a Young America’s Foundation FreedomFest Conference in Las Vegas and have driven across the South West states.
SOLOC 4, Newport Beach
The conference was magnificent. The speakers were entertaining, the table-talk and general socialising was engrossing, the morning beach and road runs (one for two hours in bright sunlight) were gut-busting. The late night drinking was ... well, I don't know. I never really recovered from all the lost sleep of the twelve-and-a-half-hour flight over (delayed by an hour due to airport staff forgetting to security check the plane before we all got on). True to Tim Sturm's predictions, I was often out like a light come 11pm each night. (I don’t think I’ve had a decent night’s sleep since I arrived).
Unfortunately, jetlag hit me in the middle of the first afternoon. I nodded off briefly in the middle of a talk by Barbara Branden and John Hospers (pearls before swine!) and had to take a nap while Adam Reed discussed therapeutic cloning - a very interesting speech from what I've been told. Jetlag got me again the next day and my sneaking upstairs to nap caused me to miss seeing two of the hottest women in Objectivism all but bare-breasted. One was down on the beach in her bikini after three minutes in water so cold I couldn’t take it for more than a minute a day; the other was (successfully) bringing harmony to the second half of the strategy meeting. I’ll assume the girls’ timing had nothing to do with my absence or my nickname, Master Bates.
Unbelievably now, I had itchy feet to commence my tour but, looking back, the five days in the beach house flew by and I would love to still be there now. I went for a huge run on the second morning and, after refreshing, felt like singing as I came downstairs to where people were chatting. I can’t remember feeling that way before – it may have been the fact that I was in the US with a three-month adventure ahead of me but I felt even more bursting with life than I had at SOLOCs 1 and 2.
The Bay Area
On the last night, Phil, Jeff, and I decided we’d only be the SOLOC homos’ hunted if we stuck around and so headed down to Newport Beach to become a wing man and two hunters. Yes, Angela, Phil was the wing man. By the time we arrived it was nearly two in the morning (closing time) and we realistically didn’t have a chance to meet any girls. The only highlights for me were getting ID'd for the first time in five years (the drinking age in New Zealand is 18) and the guys suggesting I crash at their place in Santa Clara while getting on my feet and getting my computer fixed in nearby Fremont. (My laptop died a day after I finished my thesis, taking with it my thesis, my financial records, my US friends’ email addresses and the two or three hundred newly downloaded emails that had built up in the previous week while I went gangbusters finishing the thesis. I had to get it fixed and that meant bringing it to the makers in the US as the New Zealand vendors, The PC Company, had gone bankrupt).
For the benefit of non-Bay Area readers, Santa Clara is in an area known as South Bay (San Francisco Bay, a bay even bigger in area than the Manukau harbour) and is the heart of Silicon Valley – Jeff, Phil, and Joe (who also flats there, let’s call it SOLOHQHQ) are all electrical engineers and Phil’s fiancée Angela works for an IT company. Joe’s girlfriend JJ is also an electrical engineer. Great as SOLOC4 was, nothing compared to our late-night discussions of Fourier transforms, flip-flop gate uses and our final year projects. Ah, yeah, right.
The next day we headed off on the six-hour journey North from Newport Beach to Santa Clara – that day was uneventful, save for our discovering that Jack in the Box burgers don’t agree with my stomach and me getting my first taste of driving on the right hand side of the road as I followed Phil while he dropped off the rental car. It was a great first step – I was able to get used to lining myself up using the left-hand painted line and going to the other side of the road in intersections (driving along the road is easy, the intersections are the awkward bits).
My hosts were amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of their hospitality. They lent me maps of areas I wanted to go. Angela renewed her AAA membership and got me a discounted associate membership. She and Phil took me around looking at cars and Phil offered his mechanically educated opinions on the suitability of each vehicle. Joe and Jeff took me to Jeff’s parents’ house at Lake Tahoe (more on that later). And they all put up with me and my reportedly unintelligible mumbling. Amazing.
Fancy meeting up with me as I tour the US?
I am in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on June 1 and will be heading to Houston, then New Orleans, then Alabama, then Atlanta.
Give me a call on 1-408-506-0784 or email bates - at - deletethisbit.orcon.net.nz
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