It has been about three weeks that Bedabrata flew from Delhi to San Francisco. We have already published a post about his experience of COVID flights from India to USA, celebrating Christmas during COVID, how is Christmas celebrated by the Indian community. You can find that post here.
Here are some more of his observations about his life in the USA. No judgements, east is east and west is west. These are us just descriptions that he wants to share with the readers.
Neighbourhood in Cupertino
Cupertino is some distance away from the nearest popular city San Jose and the real big city San Francisco. Set against the Santa Cruz Mountains, it is a quieter environment with few apartments. Most people live in houses such as townhouses or row of connected houses having two or three floors. The other option would be single-family homes. These are like single or double-storied bungalows with the lawn in the front and a backyard with a swimming pool. Depending on the size of the space, people commission professional landscapers who install gazebos, plant gardens and create an outdoor seating-cum-activity area. Most of these houses have storage areas in attics, laundry rooms and garage. The idea is to have a holistic approach towards living where you can sleep, read, work, exercise and socialize.
The United States is a cold country. Hence, the houses are centrally heated with electricity. That is a very very cosy feeling. When indoors, you are absolutely disconnected from the harsh negative temperatures outside. But there is a flipside to this. Given the central heating system, the whole house is uniformly heated notwithstanding many parts of the house are unoccupied. This not only leads to higher power bills but also leads to harmful carbon footprints. As a solution to this problem, Bedabrata’s folks have recently installed solar panels and use localized heating machines. So Bedabrata is warm and happy.
Most popular house colours in USA
The USA is a land of muted colours. Most popular house colours outside here are muted pastel shades. Grays, beige, peach, shades of blue are matched with white. Some houses have exposed brick fireplaces and accent walls that create interesting contrasts. The pale shades of the houses are balanced by the rich greenery that is an essential part of most US neighbourhoods.
The colours of the exteriors in USA are a sharp contrast with colours on Indian homes. We are traditionally used to seeing brighter coloured houses. No wonder we have the Pink City – Jaipur and blue city Jodhpur in our country. India, historically, is more about earthy shades while the USA, like most of the western world, is about pastel colours.
Weather in Cupertino
Cupertino has pleasant summers that last long. The winters are short but cold and wet. California is one of the few states in the USA where it does not snow much. Typical of weather in Bay Area, it does not snow here. Given that there is no snow in Cupertino, it is also a sought offer residential town in this part of the USA. Needless to say, Indians handle Cupertino weather much better than weather on the East Coast of the USA such as in the states of New Jersey, Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
Trees and flowers in Cupertino
What types of plants grow in California? Given that California is one of the rare states of USA where it does not snow, it is mostly green throughout the year. The tall redwood trees of this region draw visitors. Bedabrata’s personal favourite is the cypress. These are strong and green and grow in rather artistic structures.
Many trees shed leaves late autumn here. The green tree turns golden or orange and then leaves start falling. Within a day or two, the branches became bare. It is Christmas time, and all such trees stand skeletons.
Gardening is a popular recreation in Cupertino. Many varieties of flowers and fruits are grown in the backyards. Flowers like poinsettia, anthurium, and poppies are common. Orange, banana and pomegranate trees also flourish in household gardens. Bedabrata mother has procured a tulsi plant too that stands on their front porch.
Christmas 2020 in California
One of our followers wanted to know how Bedabrata celebrated Christmas in the USA. Christmas is perhaps the largest festival in USA. It is party time for Americans. But more important, it is family time for Americans. People visit their parents, grandparents, siblings and have Christmas dinner, breakfast and so on. They attend church services, play games, drink and have a relaxed catching-up time. Gifts are exchanged with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.
Christmas with Corona
As was mentioned in our earlier post, California is going through a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Hence it was a rather lonely Christmas when people could not meet each other. The major part of gift exchange and Christmas shopping had moved online. Bedabrata’s folks went out for groceries. But since all establishments were operating on restricted capacity, there were long queues in front of these stores too.
However, the folks visited their neighbours with gifts such as chocolates, wine bottles and artefacts from India. The neighbours also came in turns a few days before Christmas with fancy gift bags carrying gifts for children and family. Nobody entered the house, but left the gifts at the doorstep and spoke from afar wearing their masks and maintaining social distance.
Like Diwali time in India, this was also an occasion to express appreciation to domestic staff like cleaners, cooks, gardeners and community staff like garbage truck drivers, street cleaners, sweepers and so on. Their gifts were in terms of cash or cheque along with chocolate or wine.
Bedabrata wanted to attend a Christmas service at the local church. However, in view of the fact that there would be a gathering here, he refrained. Few evenings before Christmas, he visited Willow Glen close to Cupertino. Willow Glen is a neighbourhood in Santa Clara County in California Bay Area. The streets of Willow Glen were beautifully decorated during Christmas. Snowflakes, reindeer, candy canes and so on were some of the themes that we saw on various lanes.
Christmas dinner at home
Christmas-eve dinner at home was with family. To add to the cheer, they took some pictures. They also had a gorgeously decorated Christmas tree with gifts for everybody stacked at the bottom. Christmas morning, gifts were opened and Bedabrata was delighted to receive perfume, a laptop and Toblerone chocolates!
On Christmas night, he went out for a drive. It is common knowledge that the USA is virtually shut on Christmas, one of the very few times of the year. It was eerie to see this extreme emptiness in otherwise busy shopping areas, still brightly lit for Christmas. It seemed as if they were driving around in a ghost town.. with haunted lights. Most restaurants were closed. Only a few Chinese and Indian restaurants were open holding on a live light for dear Santa!