Thursday, November 16, 2006

urban sprawl

I hadn’t realized how removed from American culture I had become, and how used to (at least some of) European culture until tonight.  This week there has been a North American culture week at Karoli Gaspar, where I go to school.  Tonight eight students presented papers on various aspects of North American culture, and one paper, given by Calvin’s Eric Knibbe, was on urban sprawl.  I had read his paper in preparation for the panel tonight; that way someone would be sure to have questions for the open-forum time following his presentation.  While reading his paper I was reminded of the way urban communities (or non-communities, as it were) work in North America.  Seeing the photographs that accompanied his presentation tonight really brought it home, though.

There were a couple of pictures of homes in East Grand Rapids, and these homes were enormous.  Way bigger than any one family has a right to (unless, of course, they have a couple dozen children).  Houses like those simply do not exist here, and especially not in neighborhoods made up entirely of grotesquely large residences.  The dorm, or kollegium as it is called here, where I live is situated behind a technical services building.  This building has apartments upstairs, and there is a gas station across the street.  Down the street around the corner is a small drugstore, and if you turn the other way there is a womens’ clothing shop.  There is a school within walking distance, as well as restaurants, grocery stores, apartment buildings, flower shops, bars, and a recycling center.  In the US, dormitories are all put on a school’s campus, which is usually set apart from the city.  Personal homes are all clustered together in residential “zones.”  Those zones don’t exist here, and the result is a mixed basket of residences, businesses, schools, parks, and industrial areas. 
It’s rather refreshing, actually.  So I need a loaf of bread.  I don’t have to get in my car and go to the store.  I can just walk there in five minutes.  This is much less of an ordeal.  At home I try not to go to the store until a need a bunch of things because it’s such a hassle just to go.  I think I’m going to experience some backward culture-shock when I go home.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 11/16 at 05:36 PM
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