You know, as an ex-expat, one can become pretty jaded.
Been there, done that. Seen it, saw it, did it, done it, and what else could possibly be new?
I'm here to tell you that traveling in the US of A can be just as exciting as pottering about in the tombs of Egypt's Valley of the Kings, or struggling along with my execrable (non-existent) Polish in forest towns rather too near the border of Belarus.
Because, yes! Albuquerque NM offers new and thrilling thrills for those who seek such things.
On a weekend jaunt away, intent on spending quality time with my lovely sister, I came across some amazing sights.
The first came about on Sunday morning.
Albuquerque, home of the magnificent balloon fiesta every October, also offers tourists the opportunity at any time to experience the thrill of floating up up up and away, into the ether, in a hot-air balloon.
Here's a balloon, floating away past us, off to the southwest.
Sunday, about 7am, I was sitting enjoying a cup of joe in M's living room, when I heard outside the deep and resonant whoooooooooaaaashhhhhhh of a nearby balloon. These silken beauties rise up into the clear cold sky from the desert floor, powered only by flaming heaters. The gondolier fires up the heater, and the bursts of propane explode in fiery blasts, heating the air and keeping the balloon aloft.
Yet if the temperature is not quite right, or the winds go wrong, it can all go awry.
My sister and I had discussed this on Saturday.
"Oh yeah," she said. "Sometimes there's an accident. They hit power lines, and the balloon catches fire and dissolves in flames, and the gondola breaks off and tips over. People fall off, and out."
"Oh sure," she continued. "Sometimes people are taking pictures on their cell phones -- people plunging to their deaths, or whatever. Broken bones, you know. Broken necks. It happens. All over the internet the next day."
I sighed. God, the horror.
Whoooooooooaaaashhhhhhh. It was so close now! Impossibly loud, like a dragon sitting right above on the roof, belching out sulphurous, fiery breaths.
I went outside to see.
The balloon that had earlier flown past, high above,
was now coming in for a landing.
I looked up and saw the horrified faces of the gondola passengers as they floated barely 15 feet above the roof next door,
as their gondola was dragged through the center of a young tree at the edge of the property,
as they frantically pushed branches away
and as the balloon descended too rapidly toward the street behind M's garden wall.
Lord, was I going to be the one taking the photos of the last living moments of these poor souls?
No, thank God. They landed without incident, and as they were Texans they seemed to take it all in stride.
"Yawwww, that wuz excitin'! Betcha y'all see this kinda thang all th' time."
"Actually, no," said M, in her quietest librarian-type voice. And we went inside for another cup of coffee.