America 101

america, Life, study, travel

This will be a longish one.

It has been two weeks since my last post, and it feels like I haven’t written in a long long  time. Which means I miss writing. That is good. But then again, it has been 9 days since classes started, and it feels as if I have been doing this for months. Which means fuckall. And that the course load may kill me.

I guess that’s what America does to you. There was a girl once who had a thing for a boy. The intensity of this thing could be comfortably described as being somewhere between Dante’s Inferno and the brick oven at your friendly-neighbourhood-joe’s-pizza. However, it didn’t work out, at all, and she went to the US. What I find surprising is how she managed to keep those feelings intact for a full year. Its downright impressive. I don’t even know who the Indian President is anymore ;/

Before the mood of this post starts scrapping the proverbial bottom, I will tell you about my eventful first 10 hours in this great country. Upon landing, I apprehensively approached the customs. Barring vindaloo, I didn’t particularly care about them throwing anything else. However, the notion of deportation hovers in and around your head with alarming frequency in America. In the end, they let everything pass, except the rice. The only person affected by this was my mother. But I had known how the day was going to unfold, I would have kissed the officer’s feet for reducing my load.

From there I walked; to a train, to another train, to a cab, and finally to my new house. Between starting to walk and reaching my house, I tripped twice, banged against train doors (four times at least), met a peculiar man from Knoxville (or Nashville, couldn’t tell), Tennessee who decided to tell me about a female co-passenger who passed out on his shoulder and proceeded to unload copious amounts of drool, spoke to random old men who told me I drank too much water, and competed for longest flight time with my cab driver (he was from Nigeria). Till this point, I was fairly okay. Random shit had happened, but most of it was funny (slightly exhausting), and I was acting as awkward as people in a new land ought to. But the day wouldn’t have been complete without at least one, funny in retrospect, but scary when experienced, incident.

I think being stranded outside my own house, on my very first day, wins that one.

My phone network was dead. My flatmate, after waiting for my call, eventually left for work. And I found me, myself, and a whole lot of luggage (46+14 kgs) sitting on the street. This is probably the first time I realized that this was not my country. Faces on the road, when spotted, didn’t look familiar. The bass beats from an occasional approaching car would be strangely reminiscent of south Delhi roads, but would immediately clarify my confusion with hooks which go,’gotta get them monies, beeches and wanting me some dollarsss..’ (terribly paraphrased, possibly entirely wrong).

It was a very surreal hour. I must admit, I have sat, even slept, on a street before. But every single time I have been fairly confident about how the street would smell, the sounds around me, or whether a cop would be coming along to shoo me away. This felt very alien. Even technology failed me. The comfort of knowing my precise-to-god location on google maps was no comfort at all. Eventually, I grew too tired to feel anything. But I couldn’t sit outside in the dark, and so I dragged my luggage on the Streets of Philadelphia to the closest coffee shop. I had the most expensive tea of my life ($5! For a tea!), and contacted my flatmate. Finally, I reached home, full 10 hours after landing in this country, and crashed..

It has been 2 and 1/2 weeks since I’ve been here. Feels like months, but time is as time does. On my second day, I came back home to find the bed missing. Apparently it belonged to the previous tenant.So I made very uncomfortable love to the wodden floor for 9 days, till the mattress arrived. Also, no one here (except my flatmates, and the International student center) understands what I am saying. So my American adventure will be not only be a test of my academic grit, but also a testimony to the enduring power of good enunciation and slow speech.

I must say this before I forget; no amount of pop-culture can prepare you for America. I thought it would be a smooth transition; american-show-watching-pop-culture-consuming-internet-fellow that I am. Very wrong also I am. There is so much here that you know about, and so much more that no shows/books will ever tell you about. And the six most salient things I have noticed so far are: sheer amount of material choice in this country,how much people throw away, the stark difference in the type of food consumed by different communities, how no one ever seems to almost run into another person while walking on the street, lack of stray dogs, and the exceptional resilience of eggs. The first and second I shall not belabor. The fourth and fifth need a separate post, and third I am not qualified to comment on. There also needs to be a post about my trip(s) to New York, visiting an emergency room at 2 am, and general observations about life as such.

But the last point is most pertinent.

You know how you see half fried eggs being made on TV? You know how you try replicate those beauties at home, and fail spectacularly? Do not be harsh on thyself. It isn’t you, it’s the eggs. But the eggs here! OH MY GOD! They are phenomenal. They really are. No matter how badly you handle them in the pan, they are immune to all external klutzery! Full fucking egg, perfectly yellow, perfectly warm for your sweet succulent consumption. It’s amazing. I am eating 3 eggs a day, only to see if I end up bursting the yolk. None so far.

I haven’t written about my junior college yet. Everyone who knows me has heard the story (at least) twice. But I think I will write it in bits and pieces through multiple posts, to prevent over-kill. Any how, when I entered college, 10 years ago, it was the most stressful my life had ever been. I didn’t speak enough English, had no experience speaking to girls, and knew none of the popular references the kids were talking about (this is true; I thought Eminem was a Doctor, and his last name was Dre). Slowly this changed, till I reached a point where I spoke to everyone, knew all of the references, and was a bit of a douche to my old friends. This eventually got sorted out. But my point is, when I entered college 10 years ago, I felt very very out of place, and supremely conscious of my being in a new space. I haven’t felt like that since. Until now. Perhaps I will write about this in the next post.

This is not to say that I am doing well here. I am struggling with very small things. But there is progress.The campus is beautiful, everyone walks, and I genuinely enjoy all my classes. I am learning a lot of new things, and a bit of the old as well. I will eventually make friends, and will dread the idea of weekends. I look forward to incrementally setting up my room. I have to frame and put up the gift K and C gave me before they visit 🙂

The night sky here is different as well. Also, every time you look up, one can see either a plane or a trail of smoke left by a jet plane. When I was young, I used to imagine being that pilot, cutting across the sky, leaving smoke in my wake, and the insignificant world reduced to a blurred reflection on my visors (I blame Top-gun, and Swat Kats). It is comforting to know that if I am every bummed out, I could just look up. I have grand cycling plans, which I hope materialize, and I hit the coast before the long winter. I also hope to not fuck up my exams/assignments, and possibly for the first time in my life, strive to do well in them. How I actually do, remains to be seen.

There is progress on the house-keeping front as well. Today I figured out how a dishwasher works. Before that, there was a projector, and before that, window blinds. Yesterday, I faced-off an exceptionally well-fed possum over the trash-can. I don’t quite know what a possum is. But it felt very American. One day soon, I will figure out why they have 5 bulbs in their bathrooms, refer to their petrol as ‘gas’, have 6 types of floor cleaners, and follow the diabolically confusing imperial system of measurement.

12 inches to 1 Foot
3 Feet to 1 Yard
So far so good…
1760 yards/5280 feet to 1 mile! 
Who decided this? Seriously, who?

Si

PS: My official name for the next 4 years (assuming I don’t get deported) shall be my first and middle name. Why? More on that in the next post.

PPS: I am not really sad. Here, take nice looking pictures

Last weekend of summer

Last weekend of summer

Not so New York picture of New York

Not so New York picture of NewYork