Monday, January 16, 2012

A Taste of the American Pie

I arrived at the JFK airport on Nov 5, 2011 evening. My first visit to the United States of America - I was nervous and excited, not sure what my work had in store for me.

I had already spoken to Shilpa, my ex-colleague and good friend to pick me up and host me for the day. It was a long tiring, terribly boring flight. I tried to sleep as much as I could on the flight, but that dint happen. So I was thrilled to see my friend after two long years and get a good night's rest before I took my connecting shuttle, a two-hour ride to Philly.

On my first day at NYC, I went to the fabulous and vibrant Times Square, sat on the Red Steps, saw the Empire State Building, raided the well marketed and beautifully designed M & M store, walked all through the main streets before taking the metro back home. It was a lovely memory to begin your stay in a new country. Well meaning people make all the difference.

Philadelphia is more quiet, not as lively as its neighbours D.C and NYC. I was bored and not as comfortable in my new surroundings. Moreover, the weird weather did not help me get settled at all. I never thought it rained in winter. So I never bothered to buy a raincoat or an umbrella. One fine day, the rains catch me by surprise. I get home drenched. The next day, I am down with a cold and decided to work from home. I also decided to move out because I was unhappy with my accommodation. In the two weeks I had spent there, a mouse paid me a visit, quickly followed by a visit by a gigantic spider a few days later. That did it.

The new accommodation was much more reassuring, although it was a good 15 minute walk from the home to the station and another 45 minute train ride to work. I at least felt safe and had a lovely room to myself. I was back to my old routine - rush through breakfast, fix lunch and rush out in the morning to catch my train to work. Back home in the evening, I head straight to the kitchen, clean the sink and cook dinner before retiring for the night.

On my long weekends, I managed to visit my friend in NYC again, a school senior and uncle at Washington DC, and my uncle and childhood friend at New Jersey. Some of the trips were absolutely memorable, while some were not. You learn a few things about people and learn to accept that people are as different as the seasons. The western world can be liberating in many ways. You can get carried away sometimes and it is understandable, or maybe not.

Getting around is tough without a car, not everything is accessible by trains or buses. If you don't have family or friends, it can take a toll on you emotionally. It is a lot of learning and managing your life independently. You will begin to appreciate that the system was built to help the individual live by themselves with little dependency on anyone.

It has been over two months now. The winter gets on my nerves sometimes and I yearn for hot, hot Chennai. Nevertheless, I am happy for the experience. It is a good opportunity to look beyond your shores - a different life, a chance to learn and appreciate a different world.