Thursday, December 14, 2006

From Scenes to Glimpses of American Life

Today, I’m continuing with providing glimpses of life in US, or rather Tampa, through my camera lens. In the process, I hope to highlight some differences, but in the main you will find that it’s really not that much different as far as the daily grind goes, but perhaps the environment seems more, eh, enabling, for want of a better word. But you will be the judge.

As in Malaysia, a popular food outlet here is McDonald’s. Some of these outlets operate 24/7 and have become a favorite place of rendezvous for like-minded people prior to embarking on a trip such as our periodic release life activity. However, unlike in Malaysia, the outlet is invariably ringed with free parking lots as shown here.

I still remember going around the block a few times looking for a paid parking space (except on weekends and at night) in order to partake of McDonald’s food, more so to cater for our kids rather than for us who are wary of the food calorie.

Pasted on the glass wall on that particular day of our visit was a poster advertising for employment opportunities with McDonald’s. In large print, the hourly rates offered ranged from $7.25 to $7.75, depending on the time of the shift. This is higher than the minimum wage level enforced in Florida which for 2007 stands at $6.67 per hour, according to the notice in my office.

Why am I quoting these wages? Well, I was just wondering whether there is such a minimum wage level legislated in Malaysia and if so, how they fare in comparison. Anyone?

For the life of me, I could not fathom what this guy was doing on the Clearwater Beach one Sunday morning. He was holding down a kind of hand drill, that part I’m certain. But drilling for oil? For water? Hey, man, oil is found yonder way off in the Gulf of Mexico, which is like, what, a couple of hundred miles into the picture? I shall not let you in on what I soon found out, for now, but to point you to some clues: popular beach, sunny morning, clear water (the name of the beach, Clearwater, obviously fits the bill). The answer appears below, read at the end.

We feted our Korean neighbor to a Dim Sum lunch at a Chinese restaurant not far from our apartment. Named TC Choy, the proprietor actually hails from Ipoh, Perak. The occasion was the bidding farewell to Mr. Kim, who has completed his tour of duty in US as a Korean Airforce Pilot. But his family, Mrs. Kim (Madam Chai, and yes, both Choy and Chai share the same Chinese character, which back home we will know more readily as Chua) and their two children. The elder, a daughter, happens to be my D’s schoolmate and lately their friendship has blossomed to the chum-chum level. The son, Mark, felt to be the odd one out, according to his Mom. The two halo-like bright spots were externally induced and obviously not taken into account when the waiter took the picture. But it seems a good parting shot (no pun intended).

Outside, another photo opportunity surfaced, but this time the waiter stayed inside. So the image is marked by the prominent absence of yours truly. While TC Choy is the English name of the restaurant, the Chinese name, as represented by the two large characters to the left and right, is a propitious one, meaning the arrival/advent of prosperity. The two vertical lines on the two pillars are a couplet using the two characters in the name as the starting character in each, which is a Chinese tradition to lure patrons. Oh yes, the dim sum dishes, a Hong Kong style delicatessen, are exquisitely tasty, and offered daily from 11.00am to 2.00pm. So if you’re in the area, drop by for an unforgettable feast of the culinary delight.

That’s it for today. Oh, yes, the answer. Here it is, pictorially. That guy was actually drilling a shallow hole into the beach as a support for the big parasols that are spaced out evenly along the beach with chairs for beach goers who want to relax under the sun, feet in the sand, and eyes on the surf (hence, sun, sand, surf, the 3 Ss of the Florida appeal). The tractor that pulled the trolley with parasols is partially visible. Of course there is a charge for the use. Another outing is on the pier that juts into the Gulf, sun above, and surf under. Maybe on my next trip.

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