Monday, June 04, 2007

Getting Over the Curbs

We arrived in Grand Rapids, Michigan USA Thursday night, and are finding being here is a bit more complicated than we'd like it to be. On the one hand, it could not be easier to be here. Grand Rapids is a beautiful city-- orderly, quiet, green, neat, tidy and very familiar. Everything that was here two years ago still is; the city is still the same, the building and streets still the same. Yet even though everything is familiar, everything has changed. From the moment we left the airport we saw this mid-sized midwestern city with a perspective informed by two years in West Africa.

I know this may sound weird but what I noticed first were the curbs. They frame every road in the city. In strategic places, they are painted. Then I noticed the streetlights and stoplights. They are all working. The fire hydrants are all bright yellow. I noticed the roads-- smooth and level. Thousands of lawns covered with green freshly mowed grass. I found myself fascinated with the neatness and tidiness of this typical American city. I never saw it like this before, and I still can't get over it. I wonder if it's what an first time African visiter would see. Because none of what I'm seeing-- the suburban curbs, sidewalks, paved sidestreets, hydrants, mulch--- a Liberian boy has ever seen before:

Just another neighborhood on a rainy Sunday morning. Beautiful smooth roads, immaculate attractive sidewalk, picturesque lampost, quiet open lawns. There are so many neighborhoods like this, I couldn't find it again if I wanted to.

This is what I mean about curbs. I think this is for drainage at a city parking lot. But instead of a simple hole or a break, the city sloped the curbs and they brought in these beautiful stones and integrated the drain with the landscaping. Nice mulch too.

See, in Grand Rapids, they love their curbs so much they put up signs so you won't hit them. Note the landscaping--- more nice plants and, God love 'em, mulch.

Everywhere I drove, the city had planted rows of trees, and each of the trees has its own lil' mulch covered base. What a city!

Perfect curbs and perfect fire hydrants. They all have poles screwed on them in case they get covered with snow. Or mulch.

We're in heaven, Dave. Hydrant heaven. Could there a happier hydrant anywhere?

No sidewalk is bruised or broken for long. The city is there to prevent toe stubbing and lawsuits. The mind boggles.

And if sidestreets get too bumpy, why, they get resurfaced. And while their digging, why not replace the old pipes with these really cool black plastic ones. Somebody is going to have to email me a shot of the new curbs. Do NOT forget the mulch!