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So I’m finally here, in the City of Angels, and it’s nothing like I thought it would be.

I was expecting to walk out into this modern monstrosity of an airport with people everywhere and all the latest technologies. It wasn’t. LAX was a concrete jungle of disappointment but fairly easy to navigate which I was thankful for after the 15 hour flight from the Philippines.  Being July, the weather was a bit balmy and coupled with my jet lag, I was keen on getting settled in to my new apartment.

I took a cab to my place in Santa Monica. All this time, I have completely been underestimating the size of LA. I’ve heard from more than a few people that most places in LA are accessible within 20 minutes. Yeah well, they were  way off! 50 minutes and $85 later I arrived at my new place. I just winged my way through the tipping situation as I hadn’t yet had a chance to Google it!

A few things really stood out upon arriving in LA:

  • Once I got over the initial shock of driving on the wrong side of the road and the left hand drive, I discovered all LA drivers are crazy. Either that, or California doesn’t have any road rules. The roads are equally crazy; 10-lane highways with countless overpasses everywhere.
  • I have never seen so many fast food joints in my entire life; who knew there could be so many different burger variants that one would see the need for 500 different fast food chains selling the same thing!
  • In N’ Out can run out of burger buns.
  • Vernon is a scary place.
  • Women aren’t afraid to show more than just their cleavage while shopping at Ralph’s.
  • You can run a successful business without knowing a word of English.
  • The Target underground parking in Hollywood is Hell Mouth Central. Other branches: the Whole Foods parking lot in West Hollywood and the Whole Foods parking lot near the Farmer’s Market. Actually, any Whole Foods parking lot in LA.
  • There’s a casino in Torrance.
  • Lastly, I pictured LA to be a rich city with streets lined with cafes, a place full of beautiful cars and equally beautiful people; a place where dreams are made. Sure, I knew about the lower socio-economic areas which we hear about through media but I guess I thought the city would reflect the image it is portrayed as. The streets are cracked, the pavement uneven, graffiti is all over and there are almost as many abandoned shops as open ones.  There is a very prominent divide between the rich and the poor. I don’t think I have ever seen so many street people or been asked for a dollar so many times; not even where I’m from.

In just a few hours,  the reality of LA sunk in. It may be a massive tourist city that is glamorized by Hollywood and fast money but it’s a real city with real problems. On a brighter note, everyone I met so far have been really nice, warm, friendly, and very helpful.