Talk about culture shock! In the space of a week I've gone from living amongst indigenous members of the Andean culture, the Incan bloodline still alive and kicking, to helping Deputy Woody and his patrol of camp cowboys in the magical kingdom of Disney World (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com).
You can never beat the airport welcome that great you upon setting foot on American soil. A whole troop of immigration police greeting your first steps off the plane. Actually landing in Miami proved the smoothest transition into the promised lands I've ever had, officials more interested in finding out my dirty little secret of financing bouts of long term travel than evaluating the risks I posed to national security.
After getting over the deeply upsetting trauma of having my luggage locks stolen by tight-fisted airport personnel I was left to adjust to western civilisation in my own good time, taking in some of the finest tourist attractions Florida has to offer. These included evading sharks on Naples beach (www.naples-florida.com), wrestling alligators at Gatorland (www.gatorland.com), airboat rides in the Everglades (www.everglades.national-park.com), emulating Gentle Ben, a children's TV favourite of mine; and gaily clapping, squealing with delight at jumping dolphins and the infamous Shamu at Seaworld (www.seaworld.com).
It wasn't any of these that intrigued me the most as I bravely battled through the heat and humidity. Instead it was that mystical place where cartoons come to life, the world of Walt Disney. They say this is the happiest place on earth. Personally I swear this is a bold statement. I swear I went to a happier place the night I lost my virginity, and every time I lay eyes on my beautiful fiancee. Now I know it's easy to talk negative about a place, but the truth be known I thoroughly enjoyed my two days here, exploring my way through the various parks. Even so, certain aspects proved very intriguing.
As you would expect, being a place full of big, fluffy, colourful role models, Disney World is constantly full of screaming little angels. Unbelievably this number is dwarfed by the clinically obese, shuffling around on electric scooters. I really do worry about the safety of certain heavyweight joy riders, taking advantage of this mode of transport . All it takes is for one corner to be taken too fast and some poor innocent kid could feel the full force cushioning their fall.
Those unfortunate members of society with disabilities or incurable illnesses can also be found in large quantities. I am sure Disney World has the ability to lift people and give them a sense of well-being and achievement, providing sympathy and relief to a sometimes troubled and painful existence, but I never realised pilgrimage numbers matched that of the more established locations like Lourdes and Mecca. Maybe Mickey is the Virgin Mary reincarnated?
On a closer inspection of the Magic Kingdom, I came across even more hidden secrets, realising the park doubled as a safe haven for gay performers the world over. This is certainly a positive, as I doubt very much the daily shows would be performed with such vigour, energy and perfection otherwise.
During my time in Florida I often decided to wear one of my Ecuadorian football shirts to fight off the heat. What I hadn't guessed upon was every other visitor from the British Isles having exactly the same idea. There's nothing quite like lining up to ride Dumbo and having to stand behind an entire family dressed in matching Dunfermline away shirts. It certainly makes you proud of your cultural identity. The fact the majority of these 'chavs' were brash, loud mouthed and culturally insensitive only enhanced my levels of embarrassment. Strange though that until this moment I hadn't the pleasure of meeting Geordie or Scouse speakers of the English language during my travels.
I have been in America for a week now and still find some differences difficult to deal with. Levels of Coca-Cola consumption is scary and I'm sure a certain factor in the high rates of malnutrition and obesity witnessed. I would also be interested to hear if skin tight denim hot pants are back in fashion?