OPINION

A Desi Guy's First Days in Uncle Sam's Land

January 17, 2010
Harshit Shah

I was just about settling down in Uncle Sam's land, the United States of America. It had been barely 2 weeks that I was away from my homeland, and each day getting to be a learning experience in this "new world". I was to travel to an airport first time since I came here.To begin with, I had an option of spending 15 dollars to go to the airport by shuttle, or to "just" change 3 buses and reach the airport. The importance of money at that moment, and the ease of bus travel as described by some seniors made me go for the latter, and what followed was an adventure I'll remember all my life.

So, here's how you would do it, they said. Go to this nice website, and it'll give you which buses to take from where and it'll get you to the airport without any hassle. Perfect plan, and money-saving too, so with a printout and a small bag, I left home, hoping to complete my 3 bus voyage and reach the airport. The first instruction said, go to the NW corner of Hoover and 28th Street.

I reached the intersection, so far so good, but then, how would you find the NW direction? It's something you would have never given a thought to.But then , you had to figure it out. At 9 30 am in the morning, and without a single soul on the street, I realized that the only way to resolve this might be to look at the sun. Interestingly enough,the trick worked, and I could figure it out. Caught the first leg of my itinerary , and got down at the next stop.

This time, I again had to find a particular corner, but wasn't so fortunate this time round. It was almost noon, and the Sun was right above me! With no other way out, I was thinking at what could be possibly done here. At a distance, I saw a board:

SOUTH 101 -------------->
This, probably, was a "godsend", and with a smile on my face, I immediately began to calculate north, east and west. The curve on my face soon reversed, as I suddenly saw another board, which said:
^
|
|
NORTH 101
|
|
All my calculations became irrelevant. It was an amazing bit of luck and skill which eventually took me to the airport.Though, i realized on the way, that the bus drivers were quite reminiscent of the conductors in BEST buses of Mumbai, always insisting( read forcing) for 'Sutte Paise' (Exact Change). Here too, the driver told me, you either put the exact change, because otherwise you will not get no money back . For starters, I took a bit to understand the American grammar interpretation of this sentence.As you might know, 2 negatives do make a positive, but the Americans don't care, I thought.

And then I had my first dash with the airlines here, and it was quite surprising to see the kind of ways people could use to save money. In true 'Water No Ice' tradition, I asked the air hostess to serve me a juice without the ice that was supposed to be the main ingredient instead of the juice. However, keeping up their reputation, I was served exactly 1/3rd glass of juice, the air hostess implying that she knew precisely how to handle people like me ;) Thus, after an amazing voyage, I finally reached Phoenix. I guess the journey was much much more memorable than the destination itself

It's interesting how the first few days, though difficult and uncertain, eventually turn out to be the most precious memoirs of your life. Little things, like learning to save money, like making new friends at 3 am in the night, like teaching your mother to use the computer while chatting on MSN, with things like 'There'll be an icon that looks like this to the left of the screen', like meeting new people like you who are roaming around in campus with a small plastic bag, a map, and the wish in everyone's eyes to 'make it'.

Then, all the firsts, the first time you got a job by yourself, the first paycheck, even if it was for 7 dollars an hour, the first "raise" (so what if it was just 25 cents),the first time you took a girl out for coffee ,the first time you celebrated a night out with friends, the first time you felt that your family hadn't called you for some days, and they are now probably used to your absence , the first time you went to Artesia and got a taste of what good life in US might be like, the first time you borrowed a camera to take pictures of your University and send them back home.

It's been six years that I have been in the US of A. At times, it seems I just came a day ago, and at times it seems ages have passed! It's the most amazing time I have had though.

Harshit Shah is originally from Bombay, India. He works at Oracle Corporation in San Francisco. The articles date back to the days when he was new to this country and found writing as the best medium to express his feelings.
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A Desi Guy's First Days in Uncle Sam's Land

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