Orlando 2015

Orlando 2015

 

Disclaimer: everything I write is a trick of my feeble mind. If you recognize yourself in something I write, you’re delusional.

I don’t know if the same applies to all airports in the US right now, but I was surprised (pleasantly surprised), by the immigration at JFK. No need anymore to queue in a separate line from US citizens and visa holders, everything automated through computers; fast and efficient. I wasn’t even questioned, just presented my passport, got my stamp, and was free to go. The fact that I got lost getting to the next gate, and ended up in the wrong terminal, is all my fault, mostly due to the lack of sleep. On a positive note, I managed to read from cover to cover “Into the wild” between Amsterdam and Orlando. It is a great book, and I’m glad I read it.
Talking more about airports, as usual someone spoke to me in Italian; this time it was in Amsterdam, but it basically happens almost every time I travel. Although I always found it cute, I am starting to believe that they do to check if I really speak my language, given my passport, and I’m not faking it. More probably, I’m just getting paranoid.

Other than airports, and the conference I had to attend in Orlando (and I am not going to talk about it here), my week was mostly about wandering around in my free time, and getting to know this other place in the US of A. The first moments with the town of Orlando, and especially with all that Disney damnation, was bad.
Taxis are extremely expensive, something like 60 bucks one way airport to hotel, and with regular taxis, not some illegal ones. The hotel had no free wi-fi, or better, you had to pay 15 bucks per device per day to have internet access. After some sleep, everything got better. Of course, nothing got cheaper, but I could at least enjoy the Florida sun, walk around, and learn. I also managed to spend few hours reading in the pool area, one afternoon; the weather certainly was different from Amsterdam. My clothing was more wrong than not, but I had four T-shirts that I could use to go outside the hotel without melting.

Looking at people in Disney Springs was fun. I didn’t want to spend money on the amusement parks, that are apparently what Orlando is known for, so I just walked in this open air heap of restaurants and souvenir shops that was in the past known as Downtown Disney, but it’s now known as Disney Springs. I watched teenagers with Mickey Mouse ears, old people running around in their strollers, families with children. Yeah, if I was less than 10 I would have enjoyed the place, but to me everything just looked really silly, and a way to steal money from tourists. To be in a land of amusement parks, there is plenty of wildlife around. Mostly birds and squirrels, but I managed to spot a river otter coming out from a small canal just besides the hotel. The people I remember the most, among the various humanity that I watched walking in the Disney area, were the guy with an eagle tattooed on his face, and the middle-aged man that, while peeling a banana for his busy wife (busy applying make-up), decided to stare at me the whole time. Thank you guys, I appreciate your effort to get in my mind and have few words written about you in my ramblings.

I got good seats at an NBA game, and watched the Orlando Magic beat the Hornets in a home game. It was Star Wars night, because Disney spent I have no idea how much in advertising the new Star Wars movie, and there were plenty of people cosplaying as characters of the movies. It was also Star Wars day when I boarded the Sunrail the day after, and got free candies from them. Thank you Sunrail. Public transportation was not that reliable, and I clearly see that to live there you have to rely on a car, but I managed to get Downtown twice with the bus, and even in the northern suburbs combining bus and train. I wanted to hike, somehow, because Florida looks so beautiful (when there are no humans building stuff all over it), but reaching the trailhead for the Black Bear wilderness area took me so long, that I only had one hour to properly hike in the wilderness. It was worth though, as I was completely alone in this forest, and there was plenty of wildlife to watch. Walking silently I first started to spot bird, squirrels, and the always present small lizards. Then the turtles, big turtles sunbathing on logs or just outside the swampy canals. Eventually I spotted my first alligator, sunbathing in the canal just meters out of the trail. The first was small, the second larger, and then I started spotting bigger ones. I tried to take pictures, without disturbing them, but unfortunately I did not bring my real camera, and had only my mobile phone. So, pictures are not great. At some point I heard something big moving among the trees on the other side of the canal, and a big black mammal was there eating stuff from the ground and tromping around. For few seconds I thought it was a black bear, but it was just a black hog. Cool enough, I will never complain about wildlife, but it would have been so cool to spot, on the same day, my first alligator and bear.

I hope to visit Florida again one day, and see more of what it has to offer.

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