having been away 2 years and all that:
1) The border control and customs people were a bit nicer than the last two times I remembered. I think the worst was 2005. I accidentally bowed to one of the agents when he gave the passport back to me (a habit that takes a few days to get out of — this time, I said “sumimasen” to someone I bumped against in the lobby. If it was audible, it might have sounded like, “sue me, man!” Hey, isn’t that the sterotype of this culture?)
2) The Tasty Baking Company of Philladelphia usually had those Pumpkin Pie versions out well into December. My sister had sent me some last year, I think. This year, where are they? The Wawas are cleaned out. Arrgh! Where are my TastyKake Pumpkin Pies???
3) On that note, I know I am a little chubby, but a number of Americans are more so. (Must be where the pies are.)
4) I thought gasoline went back down. It’s still over $3 a gallon. By the way, if you don’t drive for 2 years, you don’t forget how. People don’t tailgate as much as they used to, but I only drove through Jersey a bit, mostly on 78, where it’s always been dangerous to do that anyway.
5) People who run the train system in America need to spend a week in the Kantou region. I think it would be well worth the money for the people who make the decisions about trains to have a Kantou trip as part of their training. Our train system (which I used after the rental went back to Newark) is an embarrassment. The New Jersey transit trains are, I believe, the same “new” ones from 30 years ago. So are Septa’s. So are Amtrak’s. I used all three, and it was like traveling back in time. Forty dollars total from Newark, and about 6 hours, half of which was waiting for connections.
6) Penn did a lot of building, and you can still manage very easily to attract a street person’s attention on the campus itself. Philly also put up a number of neat new skyscrapers.
7) Amish Country is actually a mix of a religious community of farmlands paved over by exurban Philadelphia sprawl. The highways are so localized, you really have to know where you are going. But then again, that has been true of New Jersey.
8) I am waiting for the culture shock to set in.