Those that follow me on Twitter are aware that I’m currently traveling around USA introducing my 13 year old son to the wonders of America after attending ISTE.
We’ve been learning a lot, and it’s really hard to explain everything in 140 characters, so I’ve decided to share everything in more detail here.
Apologies for the long post but I’ve tried to include a bit for everyone from travel tips for Aussies. ISTE to what we’ve been doing. Feel free to jump to the sections that interest you!
And educators feel free to get me to Skype into your class to discuss differences between Australia and USA.
ISTE and San Diego
ISTE is an annual conference held in USA where 20, 000 people from around the World come to share and learn more about educational technology. It’s impossible to explain how much is gained from attending ISTE.
Networking online is great but you gain even more when you make those face-to-face connections. Check out more from what some of my friends gained here:
Please let me know if you’ve written some posts about ISTE so I can add them to my list!
Too many highlights to cover but an important one was meeting Ronnie Burt, my work colleague, face-to-face for the first time.
We’ve worked together now for over two years and talk almost daily so it did surprise many that that this is the first time we’ve meet.
Final comment is that ISTE was held in San Diego this year.
I was surprised to see that San Diego is very similar looking to my home city Perth. Lots of the same vegetation including Kangaroo paws.
You can check out my complete set of San Diego and ISTE photos here!
I really need to learn to check the climate when traveling. I’d assumed that San Diego would be hot whereas the temperature was very similar to the current daytime winter temperatures in Perth.
Understanding all things USA
I’m always caught out traveling in USA; I find it harder than any other country I travel in. I think it”s because I assume it should be very similar to Australia when there are so many subtle differences that you don’t appreciate watching American TV shows or networking online with Americans.
Food has been my most exciting adventure this time. Most American food is very different from what we eat in Australia, and how you order meals is different.
This trip I’ve encouraged my American friends to surprise me by ordering food.
Here’s some food facts:
- Pulled meat is any meat that has been slow cooked for 6-8 hours and then pulled apart using a fork. It’s quite common for chicken, pork and beef.
- Sandwiches are anything between pieces of bread. Burgers, rolls and buns are all called sandwiches in USA. For example, on a McDonald’s menu you will see burgers listed as a meal or sandwich price. Australians use the term sandwich to mean any food between two slices of bread.
- In Washington DC, Jeff Meade took me to the Native Food Cafe in the Museum of American Indians. Mr13 and I enjoyed trying out the different Native Indian food. Our favorite was the Indian Tacos.
- There are containers of garlic. Parmesan cheese, oregano. chili etc which you sprinkle onto your NYC pizza after it has been cooked and before you eat it.
- Aussie meals tend to be as per the menu while in USA you’ll have lots of options so you need to be prepared to say what sides (e.g. fries, rice, salads, potatoes), what type of cheese, what type of dressing, how you want the meat cooked when ordering your meal. Good luck working out what some of the sides are!
- The trick to ordering a McDonald meal is to say the meal size and number of the meal e.g Medium No. 1 means a medium Big Mac Meal. In Australia we would say it as a medium Big Mac Meal. If you say that here you might get a Big Mac with a drink minus the fries. Also here there is no such thing as a small meal at McDonald’s. The smallest size is the medium and the largest meal is considerably larger than McDonald’s meals I’ve eaten any where else in the World.
- Most cafe and restaurant include free top up of soft drinks so you only pay once for a soft drink (soda).
- A USA biscuit is similar to what we call a scone while a biscuit to an Australian is a cookie to an American. But to make it confusing they also do occasionally have scones
- What they call a pickle is what we call a gerkin.
- Donuts here are apparently a breakfast food while in Australia we eat them any time of the day but not for breakfast.
- Our method of cooking bacon is known as Canadian bacon while bacon cooked here is very crisp and commonly eaten with fingers.
- If a salad comes with the meal it’ll often be served before the main meal in USA where in Australia the salad is always served at the same time as the main meal.
Our Aussie language
Besides differences in food you also need to appreciate that Americans can struggle to understand Aussies when we speak. When they get that look in their glazed look in their eyes you know they haven’t fully understood everything you’ve said. Our use of different words and phrases with our accent makes it confusing for them.
The other aspect Aussie’s struggle with is tipping. Tipping in Australia is considered un-Australian and tipping makes an Australian feel uncomfortable. Tipping is part of life in American. Take the time to learn how to tip and get used to tipping.
Please feel free to leave some tipping tips as I still struggle with working out when to tip and how much
Finally flying! Make sure you’re domestic flights are linked to your International flight or you will have to pay additional costs for each bag and as an International traveler you generally can’t use the self check in — bypass self check in and find some one on the counter who can organise your boarding pass.
It’s common for flights to be delayed and overbooked — don’t stress if you miss a flight due to delays! They will always get you onto another flight.
PS always hold onto your luggage claim receipt. Flights can be tight in USA and your luggage can arrive later or earlier than you.
Lots of people have asked for more information about what sight seeing we’ve done in each location, what we’ve enjoyed the most and any tips. Here is the information for Washington DC. I’ll cover New York in my next post.
You can check out all my photos from Washington DC here.
- Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
- Smithsonian Museum of American History – lunch at Mitistam Cafe (Native food cafe)
- Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
- Smithsonian Museum of American History
- Walk down National Mall to Washington Monument
- Walk past Reflecting pool to Lincoln Memorial
Here’s some facts:
- All Smithsonian Museums are free and most are within easy walking distance from each other on either side of the National Mall. Best option is to start at a Smithsonian at one end and work your way along the National Mall to check out the Museums you want to visit.
- Each Smithsonian Museum is packed full of things to do and you really can spend as much or as little time visiting each. We comfortably visited four Museums in one day but could have easily spent a day in each.
- Like all important USA sights you have to go through a security check before entering. Remember no food allowed and if you are allowed to bring in drinks you can only carry water.
Favorite moments were:
- The Star Spangled Banner exhibit and Lighting a Revolution at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. There are lots of really interesting exhibits in the American History Museum that I hadn’t expected and well worth the visit.
- Mr13 enjoyed all the different Museums. His favorite was probably the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. I loved The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age and Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight
- Lunch at the Native Food Cafe in the Museum of American Indians. There was so many different types of foods to try that you wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to try.
- Walking the National Mall to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The National Mall is currently undergoing major restoration and the Washington Monument is closed due to Earthquake damage but still a great walk.
We did the Gray Line’s DC in a Day Tour.
It was a good way to learn more about DC and included stops at the following sights:
- Tour of Capitol Building
- White House Visitors Center – you need to walk across the road to see White House
- Smithsonian Museums
- World War II memorial
- Martin Luther King Memorial
- Roosevelt Memorial
We had sufficient time at each stop to check out each location well.
Our personal highlight was visiting The Capitol. It is such a beautiful building and we learnt a lot about its history on the guided tour of The Capitol.
Personally I wasn’t a fan of the International Spy Museum but Mr13 really enjoyed it. We paid to go on a Spy mission which he really loved.
My favorite was the National Archive. Best place to start the visit is watching their Introductory movie on the National Archives. The exhibits at the National Archives were informative and interactive.
Loved the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom
- Declaration of Independence
- Bill of Rights
We did the Gray Line’s Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery tour.
We thoroughly enjoyed this tour as it gave us an opportunity to see sights outside of Washington DC while learning about George Washington. Mount Vernon is the home of George Washington. It is where he died and is buried. A visit to Mount Vernon should definitely be included on your list if you have time when visiting Washington DC.
This tour included stops at the following sights:
- Mount Vernon and guided tour of The Mansion
- Christchurch in Alexandria
- US Marine Corps memorial
- Tour of Arlington cemetery including visits to the Kennedy’s graves, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Changing of the Guard Ceremony
- Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam War memorial
And finally for those wondering how I’m staying connected Internet access is always my first priority as I’m working as I travel.
There is a range of options for International travelers in USA. This time I went with an AT & T 3 GB Prepaid Sim card from mrsimcard.com (I’ve hired USB Internet Access Card for my computer on previous trips).
Here’s what you need to know if you use this option:
- Make sure you select the correct SIM card. I selected the wrong one which they correctly fixed before sending the card.
- Delivery to Australia is really fast. You can also have it sent to your hotel.
- Telstra unlocks iPhones for free but you need to organise this several days in advance of travelling as it takes a couple of days to unlock and you need to connect to iTunes to complete the process. I had to do a factory restore to make mine unlock (remember to back up your iPhone before doing a restore).
- mrsimscard.com sends an email with an app you need to install on your iPhone before you can use the card.
- I had planned to hotspot my iPhone, like I do with Telstra in Australia, but you can’t using this plan with AT & T in USA. If I had been aware of this I might have brought my 3G iPad.
Having a pre-paid SIM card really is worth it; makes life easier and enhances the experience! I’ve also installed IM Pro+ on my iPhone so I can quickly IM with my work colleagues if needed.
Hope you’ve enjoyed the highlights of our travel so far. Our next destination was New York which I’ll cover in my next post.
Only other things I would add is:
- Connecting with other educators on Twitter really enhances the experience. My twitter network have helped recommend places to check out and it has been invaluable for connecting face-to-face with other educators in the different cities we’ve visited.
- Instagram is a great way to share your travels with your network and is a great instant way of sharing your experience. You’ll find my Instagram photos here.
Here’s where you’ll find my guides on: