Letter 2 (page 2)

First impressions

When we were in Detroit, I asked how much it would cost to send a fax to Australia & the reply was "Is that domestic or international?"

I'm having a lot of trouble making myself understood but it has not been a problem for Lan. Too many people have told me I have a strong Australian accent. On three occasions I have spelled out "A for APPLE" and they have still writen down "I"! To me, they don't have strong American accents and I have no problem understanding them. I think it is more of a problem here than in Detroit which is more racially mixed.

Driving around is generally easy because Denver is layed out on a giant grid with major roads running north/south or east/west, often across the whole city. However, street names can be confusing, if separate streets lie very roughly in line, they may all have the same name. On our page of street directory, no less than 6 unconnected streets are called W. Arkansas Ave plus there is Arkansas Ave, W. Arkansas Drive and 2 examples of W. Arkansas Place!

Petrol (gas) is still very cheap, although prices have just gone up from about A$0.38/litre to 0.44/litre. This partly explains why it is used so wastfully. Although old-fashioned huge gas-guzzler cars are now rare, fully 40% of the US vehicles market is made up of pickup trucks, minivans (like the Tarago) and 4 wheel-drives (Jeep, Land Cruisers) The 2 best selling vehicles last year were not cars but Ford's full-size pick-up followed by Chevrolet's full-size pick-up. Chrysler is also selling as many Dodge Rams with optional 8 litre V10 as it can make.

Denver smog is truely awful. Fortunately, they are now smog-testing every car every 2 years, so hopefully the worst offenders will be put off the road. Denver buses appear to be fairly modern and comprehensive in their service. There are no suburban passenger trains.

There is a strange tax system where both state and local government levy sales taxes. All prices in the shop exclude tax so you've never quite sure what something will cost at the checkout and an item on sale for $4.99 turns out to cost $5.27 so you're often scrambling for change (and 1c pieces accumulate in your pocket).

The cost of living here is a little cheaper than Sydney. Housing is about the same, manufactured goods are cheaper but fresh fruits & vegies are expensive. Chicken is very cheap, lamb is out of reach. Breakfast cereal is about double price which I don't understand.

Newsagents don't seem to exist. If you want magazines you go the supermarkets, if you want cards you go to the card shops, and newspapers are sold from the machines which rely on the public's honesty. When you put your quarter (25cents) in the slot, the door can be opened and you can take your copy from the top of the pile. There is nothing to stop you taking another for your friend, or taking the lot.

I've confirmed with the Immigration & Naturalisation Service that if someone wants to hire me, my visa can be changed so I can work and I don't even have to leave the US to apply. I just have to find a job. Prospects are hopeful since Colorado has just 3.1% unemployment (5..5% nationwide).

We commemorated our 9th wedding anniversay last week. No, I'm wrong. Lan tells me it was only 4th. Sorry about the standard letter. PLEASE WRITE TO US OR SEND US A FAX. To encourage you, we have a special one-time offer!

The first three people who send us a letter will each receive a bundle of shopping coupons that could save you heaps of $$$*. We are 16 hours behind you.

There is more I could add but you're probably tired now, so until next time ...

* Family's members of Lan Nguyen excluded; only one winner per family; coupons redeemable anywhere in Colorado.

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