The USA is a federal republic of 50 states and one federal district where the capital city Washington is located. The biggest state is Alaska and the smallest Rhode Island. The continental US measures 4.500 km from east to west and 2.500 from south to north. It covers a area of 9.300.000 square km and it is the fourth largest country. The mountain chains in the US are the Appalachians, the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges. The Appalachians which run parallel to the east coast are old. The Rocky Mountains form the backbone of America and they are very height. The Sierra Nevada and the Coast Range are situate in the west. The Great Lakes are in the north and they are the greatest group of fresh water lakes. The most important rivers are the Mississippi, the Missouri and the Rio Grande. The Mississippi is the largest river and it flows from north to south. The Rio Grande is the most important river in the south-west because it confines to Mexico. The USA has a great variety of climates. The south has warm temperatures all over the year. The north has extremely cold winters. The central part of the USA is in the temperate zone, but there are zones with different rainfall. Also the time changes in the USA. The country is divided into 4 time zones.
The population of the USA is about 249 million made of immigrants and their descendant. The original habitants were the Indians. Now they are only 2 million and they live in reserves. The largest ethnic minority are the black Americans (30 million). They are in the country since 300 years but only in the 1960s they have received the same rights of the whites. The second greatest minority are the Hispanics from Mexico. They are very poor and they accept lowest-paid jobs. The population density is 27 people per square km. The most Americans live in cities but there are only 8 cities with more than 1 million inhabitants.
The Northeast part of America is the one which is most often described and visited by tourists. The skyscraper and the capital city are the symbols of this area. This region is very industrialized and there are a lot of car factories and the famous Corn Belt. In this region all is on a smaller scale and it is more European. In the west there are great plains with immense field and the most important cities are Chicago and Indianapolis. New York is America’s largest city and it is the financial and cultural capital of the USA. Today it is part of a immense conurbation that extends for 750 km along the east coast. It includes famous cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington and has a population of 45 million people. If you fly over this conurbation you can see light on all the way. But in the last years people moved away from this region.
The Big Apple
New York is the most important city of the USA but it is the capital of nothing. It has a national and international importance because in New York there live a lot of foreign people. The city is composed of 5 different boroughs: Manhattan, Staten Island, The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The most important is Manhattan. It is the real New York. The Manhattan island is small (21x3 km) and is laid out on a simple grid of streets and avenues. The island is divided into 3 sections: Downtown, where Wall Street is situated, Midtown with a lot of theatres and Uptown, with Central Park and a lot of museums. The most people live in small apartments in Uptown and there are also a lot of deli where the New Yorkers eat at lunch.
The South differs a lot from the other parts of the USA. It has a better climate and the people have a more relaxed live attitude. The South is a beautiful region with quite valleys, sunny beaches and low lands. Cotton is still basic for the economy and now mechanical cotton-pickers do the work of the slaves. In Florida a lot of tropical fruits grow. The Mississippi flows through the heart of this region. Until the beginning of this century was the south an agricultural region and the raw materials were sent to the industrialized north. Now there are a lot of industries and the oil industry does al lot for the economy. The most important cities are Dallas, Houston, which is also a great port, Miami, Memphis and Atlanta. The coasts are important vacation centres. The south has the highest black population but although many thing have changed for the better there are still moments of racial tension.
The Clavy Family Canada
The Clavy family and their two dogs moved from Birmingham to Canada two years ago and now they live in Alberta, not far away from the Rocky Mountains. They enjoy Canada and they live in a big house surrounded by trees. Life in Birmingham was bad and even if they were well off. They were always busy and so they rarely spent time together as a family. Emigrating was very expensive and it took a lot of time. When they arrived they didn’t know anyone but in a few months they made a lot of friends. Now they are a closer family. Their children love the new country and the school because they don’t have to wear a uniform. Marion loves the climate but she misses the greenness and the castles of England. Andy loves his new job. Now he only works 8 hours a day and so he spends more time with the family. The business is more relaxed but at the beginning it was difficult to find a new job. Moving to Canada was the best thing they have ever done.
The White Family Greece
The White family left England five years ago with their baby daughter. They decided to leave London because they wanted their daughter to grow up in sunshine and not in the busy streets. Now they live in Agastri, a small island in Greece. When they arrived they opened a tourist sport business but it was very difficult. Learning Greek was hard but Daisy is absolutely bilingual. Barry doesn’t miss England and he likes the new country. For Hazel it was a big culture shock and the language barrier was very hard at the beginning. In winter they often have economic problems because of the different income between summer and winter. Hazel misses her parent and England and sometime she has doubts about living in Greece.
The Midwest includes the states between Missouri and California. All this states have some points in common. In general they have low population a few towns and they are far away from the cultural centres. The most people live in the state capitals, which are not larger than a small town. The other people live in the countryside far away from neighbours. In the towns there is usually one main street with motels, petrol stations and supermarkets. In the Midwest we have the Great Plains famous for the Wild West. In this region we have low rainfalls and the activity of the population is cattle rearing. In the past cowboys used to dive their cattle all the way to Chicago and the only way to keep the animals quite was to sing song. Now this songs make part of American culture. The Rocky Mountains cross this region and we can find a lot of national parks, like Yellowstone on them. In Nevada and Arizona rainfall is very low and there are deserts, dry rivers and death lakes. The tourists attractions of the Midwest are the Grand Canyon, the Death Valley and Las Vegas, the city of the casinos.
Education: a local matter
In the USA there is no national system of education. Every State has its own system and there are big differences between one state and another. For example in one state you attend school from 6 to 18 and in another from 7 to 16. America has always believed in education and in the States we can find important schools like Harvard College. The most student go to public schools but there are 15% of the students go to private schools. The federal government provide only half the founds for the schools. This means that we have better schools in richer areas and bad schools in poorer areas. This is a big problem but the government has no solutions.
Between six and eighteen
In the USA all classes are called grades. The first step is K grade or Kindergarten. Elementary school includes grade 1 to 6 and High school goes from grade 7 to 12. In the USA you attend school for between 10 and 13 years and you move automatically from one grade to another without making any exams. Nearly every elementary school teaches the same subjects: maths, reading, grammar, writing and so on. In all the High schools the subjects are the same but there are other subject called electives which differs from school to school. During the High school you receive credits to get a high school diploma. The more difficult the course the, more credits are given. School starts at 8 and finishes at 3. The student move from one room to another according the lesson and they eat in a cafeteria. In the afternoon there are other activities like sports.
A nation at risk?
The education in the USA is not at the highest level. In a lot of states you can get a diploma without learning a foreign language and with only one year of maths and science. Only 20% of the 17-year-olds can read an letter of application for a job and in the big cities like New York or LA a lot of students fail complete high school. Another problem are the guns. In some states students come to school with guns and not with books. The situation is very bad and the government is searching for a solution and it spend 25 billion dollars for remedial education.
David Livingstone was one of the most important explorers. He spent 30 years travelling around Africa. He studied medicine but in 1841 he sailed to Africa to join a Christian mission. When he arrived he marry his wife Mary and together they went to places where no European had been before. He went to the Zambezi River and to the Victoria Falls. His second expedition was a disaster. His wife and a lot of other people died. In the third expedition he went to the source of the Nile and he vanished but he was found after as long period. In 1873 he died.
Mick Watts is in Melbourne and he is on a nine-month trip around Australia and Asia. He arrived to Singapore fife months ago and during this time he visited beautiful places like Thailand and the temples of Indonesia. He meet a lot of great people, stayed in cheap hotels with other young people and travelled with public services. But it was not always easy. He had diarrhoea and he was stung by insects. The best part of the trip was scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef. Now he wants to go on travelling and he hopes to visit other beautiful places.
The West Coast
The West Coast seemed for the first settlers like a paradise with green valleys, sandy beaches and forests of fir trees and the famous redwoods. This region is made up of three states: California, Washington and Oregon. The West Coast is America's door to the orient. In fact in this region we have a lot oh harbours were goods are laded and un-laded and exported all over the world. California is the state with the highest population and it is also the centre for the industry of the future. In fact in California we can find Silicon Valley. San Francisco is America's most beautiful city and a lot of foreign people have made it multilingual and multicultural. There is also the highest gay population. Further south the climate gets warmer. Here we can find Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the USA. In this city we have famous places like Malibu, Santa Monica or Hollywood but also black ghettos like Watts. A lot of movements of this century like the hippy movement moved from California to the rest of the world. People say that what they are doing in California now we will do in Europe tomorrow.
American fast-food is famous all over the world. Hamburgers are a typical American food even if they have German origins. But there are other traditional foods. At breakfast the American eat pancake eggs an potatoes. At lunch you can try English food or tacos from Mexico. In the evening a lot of Americans eat pre-packed food in front of television or eat a steak with a mixed salad. America holds the world record of different types of food. You can find food from all over the world and a lot of dishes have become typical American.
Death by tourism
At the entrance of a temple of Petra there is an inscription in the rock. People thought it was an old inscription made perhaps by one of King Herod's soldiers many centuries ago, but closer inspections reveals that it is an inscription made by some tourists. Scientists think that the ruins of Petra are in great danger because of the tourist's march which reduces the stone. But not only Petra is in danger. A lot of other places all around the world can be destroyed by tourists. The first tourists were the Romans, but only the rich people. Things changed for the ordinary people at the beginning of this century. Now tourist industry is the largest of the world and people travel to every place on the earth. The effects of tourism are incredible. The Mediterranean sea is the dirtiest of the world and every year there are more than 100 million of tourists. In the Alps cable cars have climbed all the mountains and in Paris the pollution destroys the stonework of the important monuments. In France people have built a replica of Lascaux because it was in danger. In the future people will build other replicas of famous places and nowadays we can say that modern travel narrows the mind.
American holidays and traditions
In the year 1620 a ship of pilgrims called Mayflower arrived to America. The pilgrims were puritans and decided to leave Britain because they were unpopular. During the first winter a lot of people died but in spring, with the help of the Indians, they ted crops and corn. After one year they made a feast and thanked God. Today this holiday is called Thanksgiving Day and it is the most American holiday. The Independence Day or Fourth of July celebrates the Declaration of Independence. But there are a lot of other feast and each ethnic minority who lives in America has its own traditions and feast. Another important celebration is Halloween which is on 31 of October. In the past it was the night of ghosts and witches. Today children dress strange costumes and go from house to house asking 'trick or treat'.
In the USA we have complete freedom of religion and since the times of the Pilgrim Fathers we have a great variety of religious movements. There are about 300 religious groups with a variety of different beliefs. We have 76 million of protestants and the Baptists and the Methodists are the most common groups. But there are also 52 million Catholics and many of them are descendant of European immigrants. Other world religions are increasing their number and influence. We have a lot of Jewish, Islamic and Muslims. Beside this religions there is a great number of sects and they often have points in common. They believe that a new age is coming or think that the end of the world is approaching.
American pastors are as varied as their flocks. They preach in television or in the radio but also in big cathedrals or drive-in churches.
American English vs British English
Britain and England have everything in common except the language! In fact there are big differences between the two English, but there are also some different accents in the USA. For example experts say that black English could be considered a language in its own right. European people usually study British English but they often come in contact whit American accents. American English differs in three ways. The first is the pronunciation. For example American pronounce the letter r while British people do not. The second difference is the spelling. In England we write theatre with re and in America with er. Finally there are differences in vocabulary, and this can lead to amusing misunderstandings.
The Hollywood dream-machine
A lot of what people know about America and the American lifestyle comes from films. American films are famous in all over the world and talk of films means talk of Hollywood. After 80 years it is still the movie centre of the USA. The story of Hollywood begins in 1910 when a group of Jewish immigrants decides to invest all their money in this new art. They were attracted to the west by the beautiful coast, the good weather and the landscape. The first films were silent movies and in 1927 the movies became sound movies. A lot of people went to the cinemas to see this films and this period is called Hollywood's golden years. The American way of thinking is now exported all over the world.
The 1950s are a period of crisis because of the arrival of the television and because of the competition with Italy and France. In the 60s and 70s Hollywood produces a lot of TV-series but the in last 15 years Hollywood has become a dream-machine once again.
From Rags to Riches
The Coca-Cola Company, which sells its drinks all over the world began when a pharmacist mixed the first Coca-Cola drink and began selling it on the city of Atlanta. Cameras were unpopular until a young man invented a new film and a new camera for it. Now this Company called Kodak is one of the biggest of the world. Also blue jeans were born in America. The first pairs were sold to cold miners in California and now Levi Strauss is a big clothing producer in the USA. But the self-made man of the 90s is Bill Gates which became the richest man of the world by selling famous computer programs like Ms-Dos or Windows. Today a lot of people think that the USA are a place where a person can become easily rich. This success stories ate possible because of some elements. The first is spirit of initiative and the different life attitude. American think that practice is more important than theory and so they feel more free to experiment.
Hardly Thomas is one of British most important writers. He was son of a stonemason. After leaving school he went to London but he missed the countryside and so he returned back to Dorset. Here he begun to write novels and poetry. Two of his most important works were Under the Greenwood Tree and Far from the wedding crowd. After this period his stories became tragic. In The mayor of Casterbridge a man is eventually destroyed because, as he was young he has sold his wife and his child. All his stories are about normal people which are involved in situations over which they have no control. Many of his books have been made into popular films