Saturday, 12 March 2005

The US Of A

It was 3 days later than I expected but I finally boarded a plane to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon and arrived in the US in the evening. The flight was mostly uneventful. In fact, I slept quite a bit on the plane. Arriving into Atlanta airport is impressive thought. First of all the town skyline that you can see when landing is completely alien to European eyes: you land in this big sparsely inhabited forested plain and you can see in the distance the skyscrapers of Downtown Atlanta, sprouting out of that plain like an isolated cluster of mushroom; an island of modern humanity in a sea of emptiness. In Europe, a town this size would be surrounded by smaller towns, villages, hamlets; it would not suddenly appear in the middle of what looks like vast empty spaces. Then the size of Atlanta airport hits you. It is the largest in the world and the traffic on the runway is impressive. Planes take off and land continuously and they don't move one by one: a few other planes landed right behind us and as a result traffic control had five aircraft cross one of the take-off runways at the same time. Finally, you get out of the airport and America hits you in the face: 10 lane highways, huge cars and SUV all over the place and no public transport or pedestrians. Well, that's not totally true, there is MARTA but with a grand total of 2 rail lines, North-South and East-West, it is hardly extensive.

So, after this quick introduction to American transport, I was introduced to American culture today and ended up at a poker evening. I had never played poker before. Well, I sort of understood the basic principle of having a hand of card, what combinations were better than others and the fact that the game is as much about the impression you give to your competitors than the cards you actually have. I didn't pull a complete bluff but I did take risks and eventually ended up one dollar up at the end of the evening so it wasn't too bad. I didn't really expect to enjoy it but I was pleasantly surprised. One thing that was obvious to me during the games is that, all in all, the situations were I lost most severely were either cases where I didn't take a risk I should have taken or cases where I did take a reasonable risk but one opponent had a marginally better hand. So I did what most beginners probably do: be a bit too cautious and don't bluff to prompt opponents to fold. Hopefully I'll remember that for next time.

Tomorrow, the mission is to discover Atlanta itself.

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