human behavior

Welcome to Ann Arbor

Posted in American Culture & Politics, Travel by humanb on January 19, 2010

My American vacation ends in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I’m doing a one month rotation in geriatric medicine. I don’t know the American Midwest, so the novelty of this visit somewhat ameliorates the reality of being in Michigan in the dead of winter instead of Sydney at the height of summer.

I’ve been in town a week, and for five days I’ve been exposed to absolutely no sunlight. The sun rises after 7:30am (after I’ve already gone indoors), and sets at 5:30pm (when I finally venture out again).

Michigan is on the border of time zones, and its residents are particularly prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder. I haven’t been depressed so much as suffering from an incapacitating drowsiness: a mental fog. That hasn’t served me well at the University of Michigan medical school, where I’m hoping my Aussie education stands up to American expectations.

This 3-day weekend is therefore being thoroughly appreciated, if only for the opportunity to partake of the scanty sunlight that struggles to filter through the clouds. The sky is a blinding white here – not very pretty in itself – but it casts a bleak but mysterious light upon an admittedly charming college town.

Ann Arbor has sporadic elements – buildings, shops and alleyways – suggestive of its gritty urban neighbor, Detroit.

The alleys were my favorite spaces.

These gritty spaces are so arresting because they catch you by surprise in an otherwise sleepy, well-kept town of trendy shops and quaint, old-fashioned homes.

I’m staying in the Historic District in the Armory Building, an historic building of converted loft-style apartments only a few blocks from the university.

The undergraduates may still be away for the holidays, and the recent snow and bitter cold may have further dampened activity, for there’s a dreamlike quality to walking these streets at the moment.

The people of Ann Arbor (if I may generalize) are exceptionally friendly – chatty even. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re warm, but they’re sincere and open. Their smiles are genuine, and there’s a modesty to their manner. These qualities are no doubt exaggerated by an accent stripped of any pretensions. They speak plainly – taking pains to pronounce every consonant and vowel – in such a way that not even the most impressive of people could sound intimidating.

All this to say that Ann Arbor is a very pleasant town, and I feel welcome here.

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2 Responses

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  1. condore said, on January 20, 2010 at 5:49 am

    After only a brief trip to Ann Arbor in the 90s I thought I knew it. I don’t recall seeing any of your images when I was there. Your pictures remind me of many mid-western cities, including St. Louis, the city where I grew up. If you look beyond the beautiful monuments, stadiums, and museums in St. Louis, you will see similar alleyways hiding just behind the lights.

    Given it is winter, the sun may not be in the cold grey sky but it certainly sounds as if it is shining in the hearts of residents.

    Sydney waits.

  2. humanb said, on January 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Yeah condore, I haven’t really visited the Midwest much, but these pictures of Ann Arbor – the homes and streets- strike me as very midwestern.

    Thanks for reading. 🙂


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