Thursday, December 30, 2004

Snowy December!

On return, I got busy with driving classes and work. My instructor Dennis always had interesting stories to tell during the drive. He would talk of his pets – A cat, a lizard, a dog and a spider. The choice of pet surprised me a little as the idea would take a while to be digested in my part of the world. During a conversation on cuisine he shared stories of two of his ex-girlfriends. One was a Vegan and another who liked Sushi, which he apparently did not. The vegan girlfriend of his disliked him eating meat and that was always a subject of conflict between them.

Then, he was also contemplating on going to Iraq to train the police there. His concerns were on what risks this package came with and of being away from his daughter. Dennis mentioned about this place in Manitou springs where they brew beer and he considers it to be the best.

My last class with Dennis is the most memorable of all. He talked about his divorce and how painful it is – the emotions, settlement and money deals etc. His daughter on the other hand is trying to set him up someone and during her weekend visits to him, she would ask every other woman she meets – “My father needs a wife, will you go out with him?” She requests the neighbors to stay with them. He also shared that he is going out on date and meets a new girl at least in 3 months. “I want to get married again but not divorced again.” He adds suggesting that he wants to take his time to meet the right person. I found that very thoughtful and interesting. Unlike from where I come from, here people lived a life for themselves. Compromise was not accepted beyond a limit. On the other hand, in India, I see many couples live together for a life time despite their differences as if their regular fights would not affect the child’s psychology.

On our last day of class, Dennis and I went to Dunkin Donuts on the 8th street at Colorado Springs Downtown. I love the glazed donuts there. He got me addicted to donuts and Dennis being an ex-cop did not differ with the teasing that people made about cops and donuts. People talk – Bad cop…no donuts; where is the cop? ….maybe in a donut shops…. He says that many a times when they have to work late in the nights, donut shops are the only place that is open to grab some coffee and food. I am glad that I got to hear both sides of a story.

He also made me drive the route for the test a day before my exam and shared some tips for the exam, which I thought was a kind gesture from his side.

I am sure that years to come I shall always remember Dennis and the conversations we have had.

At home, my novel began taking shape and characters began to develop. They began to suck me into their world.

Post a driving test, I got my first drivers license. Not in India, but in the US on 9th of December. I could not help noticing how organized and quick the process was. In India I would have spent hours in RTO and would end up paying bribe to few people to get my DL.

On December 10th, we celebrated Jonah’s birthday at 3-Marrgaritas, a Mexican restaurant. He invited Peggy and Mike as well for dinner. I was very hungry that night and hence did something very crazy while waiting for the food which took a lot of time to arrive. I took the lemon slice on the glass of water that had been served and squeezed it in to blend with the water. I began adding sugar but it would not dissolve. I kept adding sugar until all the packets were empty. “And here comes the food.” I said to divert everyone’s attention away from me!

Another interesting pastime I had was to drive to Chapel hills mall and walk in to Borders book store and checkout all the collection. I was happy to find several books by Virginial Woolf.

During her graduation day, Aditi visited us. She treated us (we, Ernest, Deb, Aditi, Brett, Peggy and Mike) at Mirch Masala. We then went to Peggy’s house and watched the film Dhoom. All felt it was much different from the very culture centric Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam that we had watched few months earlier. Ernest liked the movie.

Jonah had left to Chicago to his cousin’s place. Seb and I meanwhile explored the city as I had just got my driver’s license. We drove to downtown Colorado Springs and some malls around. During one of those drives the tires got stuck in snow but after a few attempts, I was able to get going. 

The tires got stuck at this turn

I bought my new camera- Cannon S 60. I was now planning to capture all the beautiful moments.

On Christmas Eve, Seb and I joined Peggy and Mike at the church. The prayer was nice and I enjoyed the customs of a different religion. I do respect all customs but I have to say that drinking wine from the same glass seemed a little inappropriate to me. We gifted short story collections- by Jhumpa Lahiri to Peggy and Mike. And to Brett I gifted an Alfred Hitchcock movie collection.

After a lot of dissatisfaction with my mustache, I finally got rid of it and my new look pleased me a lot. With the mustache an old part of me had been discarded.

Colorado was covering itself completely in white. It snowed heavily one weekend and this new look of COS was very exciting. I enjoyed how the entire place looked totally different from a few months before. In Bangalore/Mangalore, not really a drastic change such as this could be witnessed through out the year. So it was quite interesting.



One day, Seb and I decided to go to Denver. Half way gone I recalled that I had not brought my license. I had not received a card but this was a temporary paper which allowed me to drive till I got my card. We had no clue how to react. Scared we returned from Exit 187 on I-25, interstate, only to come home and see that I had washed the paper with my pant. :-) 



Every time that we passed that exit, I recalled this first incomplete trip to Denver. So we returned home and watched Hindi movies that we had rented from Indian stores.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

LA & Vegas!!!

On the afternoon of November 19th 2004, it was snowing in Colorado Springs and hence Peggy chose to drive me to the airport herself. We were yet to get accustomed to driving in snow. 
At airport, I grabbed a pack of french fries and coke and sat there observing the planes come in and take off. It was a lovely sight.
The flight was amazing. As the plane moved above the clouds in Denver, it transported itself to a clear sky above. It's interesting to notice the difference and watch a blanket of clouds pouring down at the cities while you fly over them in a clear sky.
And then something magical happened. As the sunset the sky was as thought split in two halves. In the west, Orange conquered and east was turning grey or dark with a transition of yellow int he middle. At that moment, I felt a strange but very pleasant happiness. I was happy to be me and witness all that i am witnessing. 
My BIL received me at LAX and we drove home. As an expert in cooking that Anu was, she had cooked several dishes for dinner. I started off with homemade veg puff. Chapatti, Brinjal Palya, Panneer Butter Masala and Pulav was a treat.
Next day, Anu, Varsha and me visited Disney land. It was as though entering a magical land of fairy tales. It was beautiful and I could not appreciate any less the details paid attention to. I don’t think anybody should miss a visit to Disney land in their life time. Some of the rides I enjoyed were – Indiana Jones, Jungle ride, splash mountain and Tarzan.


In the Indian Jones ride, the jeep stops at a point and a huge rock rolls down at us. Just when it is about to hit us, we escape through a route below that we did not know existed. It was one of the best moments of that day.
House of Mickey mouse and Donald duck was nice setup to attract the kids. Varsha was so happy and shy at the same time to meet Micky in person.
We watched a play on snow white which was impressive. A parade in the evening were all the Disney characters walk the ramp is just an amazing sight to witness. Cindrella, Aladin, Mickey, Donald duck, Pooh, Goffey, Beauty and the beast, everyone were there and it looked like a grand celebration. This was followed by fireworks. With a sparkling night sky, this eventful day was put to an end.
Next day, we went to Universal studio. I loved the rides there; Jurassic park, mummy, Back to Future to name some. The terminator and Shrek -4D movies are a delight to watch. Water world show, Van hasling, Back to future, Mummy revenge every other show was brilliant. The last bit of Jurassic park ride where we just escape the dinosaur abut to feed on us is brilliant. I bet if you are someone who does not like adventure and amusement parks, then you are going to change your opinion here. It takes one to a world of illusions.


During the day I was at home, I tried a Korean haircut. They tried some spikes on my head too which I thought was cool. 
On Saturday evening, we drove to Vegas. It appeared like every car from LA was driving to Vegas for weekend and hence we were stuck in a bad traffic jam with cars moving at 5-10 miles per hour.
When I entered Vegas, I was shocked. It glittered from far away and as I drove close I blended into the sparkling city of casinos. Looking at it now, who could say that this is a dessert? We stayed at Mirage. At the casino’s I played mostly Slot machine. But there was no need to play, I just enjoyed looking around. I played for $20 and won $40 and then continued to lose everything.
Every casino has a theme. – Casino Paris with an Eiffel tower, 1/3rd the actual height and a false roofing of beautiful blue sky; Caesar palace with roman architecture; Excalibur with European castle; Casino Luxor built like a Pyramid. It’s like entering a dream.
The fountain show at Bellagio was brilliant. We returned back to LA next morning.

In LA, we also visited a temple and I was surprised to see a very Indian atmosphere once we entered the campus. On our way back, we drove to Malabo beach which I thought was nothing as compared to the beaches in Suratkal, compared to which the beaches here were not very clean. The sand looked muddier and the beach was filled with dry leaves, branches and impurities. And without any waves the sea looked dead. 
During a shopping at Atrecia street full of Indian stores, I bought a idol of Ganesha. For some reason, i felt a need of it. Being raised in a Hindu family worshipping idols, it has become part of my nature to confess my feelings to an idol that is believed to be superior to myself. I missed that and the Ganesh idol I bought in LA made me happy.
While returning, we took a walk on Hollywood Street and saw Kodak theatre were Oscars is held.


After the thankgiving weekend at LA, I returned back to Denver where it was still snowing. Peggy drove me back from Denver to COS. On the way back peggy and I discussed our Novel themes. I had the thought of my novel “ Miasma” very clearly in my mind. 

During the drive back, at one place the car almost skidded on snow and Peggy was so scared. However we stopped right on time not to hit the vehicle in front. Driving in snow is a tricky job.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Dinning, Driving & Donuts!

Its already winter and gets dark at 4:30 in the evening. That is too early for me to say its dark but I like this big difference. Suresh, our boss was in Colorado for few days. On one of the weekends we went on a long drive after lunch. We took I25 till Denver and then I40 west. It was a fun drive with excellent views of the mountains. We stopped near a gas station at Idaho Springs and returned back. On the way Suresh gave us some tips on driving in Interstate.


On our way back, we stopped at a rest area on I25. This place was covered with snow. Jonah & I turned kids by throwing snow balls at each other.


One of the evenings during Suresh's visit, Alan invited us for a dinner at a Mexican restaurant. His family joined too. I am beginning to love the mexican food and the spices resemble that of Indian.

At office, I also befriend a very kind man called Fred who is in his mid 40's. Fred took Suresh, Jonah and me for lunch at an indian restaurant called - “Taste of India”. A very funny thing happened here. A bunch of daily labors sat next to us and while Fred was speaking they began to comment. Fred ignored them completely and that helped them to return back to their work. I found their behavior strange and Fred's behavior very wise. If I look back at this incident now, i also feel the strong class distinction that builds hatred and jealousy among citizens no matter in where.

During one other weekend, we invited Mike and Peggy for lunch at India palace restaurant. After which, Suresh drove us up the Pikes Peak. Since it had snowed heavily last week up in the mountains we could only drive till 12,500 ft. The road ahead was still blocked. Even though we could not make it to the summit, we enjoyed every bit of that drive. The mountain looked so different to me from how it appeared the last time I drove up in August. The trees were partially covered by snow and their new look was awesome.

It was interesting to notice how COS was slowly transforming into a different appearance, a different town itself by covering itself with layers of snow.




With another Colleague Bob inviting us to an Indian restaurant called Mirch Masala, we had now tried all three Indian restaurants in COS. Sweet old couple, Bob and his wife, talked a lot about US and India.

It was very nice of Brett to gift me 8 DVD's of old movies, mostly thrillers. He also came over to over place to watch “Rear window”, a brilliant Hitchcock film.

At my driving class, I completed my Residential, Rural and freeway driving. I had a very good instructor called Dennis. He was a cop before; had to take a break after a recent injury to his leg. During our Freeway classes, I drove almost 20 miles at a speed of not less than 75 miles per hour and it was awesome.  We also took the roads to Black forest which was an impressive drive. But influenced by Indian road conditions, in a signal, while taking a left turn, i crossed the median and drove to oncoming traffic. That was foolish and funny.

It was Dennis who introduced me to Dunkin Donuts. One evening he drove me to the store on 8th Street close to downtown and treated me with a  glazed donut. It tasted like heaven. That was when i got hooked to the donuts. When I informed Brett about who got hooked me on to donuts, he laughed loudly as there goes a saying that the cops are always found at a donut store.  Dennis explained that during night shifts, Dunkin donuts was the only store open and they would always stop there to grab a coffee. He and his friends would grab dozen donuts and some coffee to stay awake all night.


Dennis always had such interesting stories to tell me while we drove. He was also enthusiastic to know about India. One thing that always surprised me was that Americans shared their personal life very openly to strangers on the other hand Indians are tight lipped about it. It was an interesting difference to notice.

During the month I began writing my first novel – “Miasma”.

Sebastian, another colleague of ours from India arrived on 14th. Now all three rooms in the apartment are occupied.

I enjoy my drives to plant which is about 20 miles from office and this was due to excellent views of the city that I get to see on the way . I felt good about the fact that I was right here, in one of those places where I always dreamt to be in. I wanted to pen down every thought, every moment; happiness that this sight brought.

Peggy helped with my shopping of gifts to Anu and family. I am all excited of the trip to LA, to visit my sister during the Thanksgiving vacation.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

First Snowfall!

I have a roommate now. Jonah arrived during the first week of October. I was so happy that I spoke to him non stop about everything from US to people at work.

Both Jonah and I had our classroom session on driving, one Friday. It went well and after the class, Alan took us out for dinner. Rick (Jonah’s Boss) also joined. But the surprise guests were Alan’s wife and junior Alan. Alan’s son is also named the same and it was their family tradition to name the kid after the grandfather. This is something similar to what we find in India. His wife is from Vietnam and so she had another name for the kid too. Alan’s wife spoke very well. I found the culture around asian countries more or less similar. She jokingly complained about Junior Alan not having much hair and especially on not having dark black hair like we Asians.

The food was excellent. Alan had chosen a Vietnamese restaurant in Colorado Springs downtown. I got to taste some real good rice noodles after a long time. Jonah & I loved the place.

After the dinner Alan took us to watch ice hockey game. Famous Colorado team named “Tigers” were playing. We enjoyed the game as Alan explained to us the rules.

Jonah and I had now started driving. Peggy sat next to us while either one of us drove. If I drove while going to office, Jonah drove back. Company rented for us a new Buick century from hertz. As always, learning anything is fun and has many interesting stories. On my first day out, I had a very big confusion at an intersection. About right of way. As I hesitated to drive, the lady in the car opposite to me got confused and finally she took off knowing that i was confused.

And Jonah ran a red light one day. Aditi and I were sitting in the back seat and chatting when there was some confusion between Peggy and Jonah to whether or not pass the yellow light. Peggy finally yelled to stop but Jonah instead of applying brake hit the accelerator pedal. Boooom we ran a red light. He was really upset that day as Aditi and I pulled his leg.

Aditi accepted a job offer in North Carolina. Peggy and Mike arranged a send off party one evening for her and we were invited. After the party we helped Aditi in moving out some of the boxes that she had packed. It was sad saying good-bye to her because in spite of having spent very less time together she had turned out to be a very good friend of mine. I shall miss her.

The month was filled with creativity. I wrote several stories. One evening, Sajil, Subbaiaha, Jonah, Suman and me had dinner at Asian empire buffet. After dinner we all came back home and chatted. With four of us speaking kannada, it felt like we were in Bangalore.

I started enjoying purchases on Amazon.com. It is so easy to find and buy stuff here. Books of Virginia Woolf, Some rear DVD collections were few of my purchases.

The time changed today. Yes, all the clocks where reset an hour for day light saving. Strange, but thats what happens during winter and before summer to get more daylight. As it gets dark at 4:30 PM during winter and 9:00 PM during summer.

Around the end of the month our boss from India, Suresh traveled to COS.

And one night, at around 10 PM or so, Suresh called us to look at something. It was the evening of October 31st  and it was snowing!!!


That was the first snowfall I had ever witnessed in my life. There were many to follow but none looked so impressive as the first one. Small white crystals showered on the rooftops and dry lawn. I went outside and held them in my hand. It was beautiful. The pictures here can help you recollect the event but would never recreate that special feeling again ever.


Thursday, September 30, 2004

An Eventful Month

The month passed by with some fun, some writing, some get together and some boring hours.

On the labors day weekend, I was scheduled for a driving class in Pikes Peak Community college. But since both Peggy and I did not pay any attention to the classroom number, We had trouble searching for the room. As a result I could not attend the class that day. So Peggy asked me, If I wanted to join her and Aditi on a trip to Denver. I happily agreed. We went to a Library where Peggy and her friends had some project work to do. Aditi and I read some books. After that we dropped Aditi at the Denver International Airport as she was fluing to Minneapolis to visit her sister.

Since it was summer, it did not get dark until 8:45 in the night. So I always felt that I had lot of free time after returning back home. Free hours and idle time makes people revisit their hobbies, so I utilized this time in writing. I wrote a few stories, few poems and some articles. When i needed break from writing, I watched movies on television. I was loving this lethargic life.

While Peggy was away on vacation, Dipen or another colleague from office called Evan who lived close by would give me a ride.

One weekend, Dipen, Aditi and I watched had a movie evening at Dipen’s place. And when I missed my family and friends, I made long calls to India. I had stories to tell and may be I bored people on the other end.

17th September, was a memorable evening. Ernest, a colleague from office, wanted to watch a Hindi film. So Aditi and I invited him home to watch a movie. Peggy, Mike and Brett also wanted to join in for the movie night and also did a friend of Aditi named Debra. So it was a great evening. Aditi and I had fun explaining the Indian tradition and culture.
We had Pizzas and coke for dinner. Aditi and I cooked an Indian dish called Poha. Mike liked it a lot.

The very next day I had driving class. Finally some actual driving after theory classes. We had 2 days of driving where we were taught necessary skills, like threshold brake, Slalom drive and driving on icy conditions. I shall nver forget these two days of my life. On the first day I took the car out of the track, on to the grass scaring my instructors, Tom and Jamie. This was the first time I was ever driving on my own and thus had some starting problem but then on I picked up.

By the end of the second day, everyone had to drive their parents around. So Peggy was my parent. I think i did a good job. And the instructor Tom became a good friend. He gave me his phone number so that while he goes on cave exploration and hiking I could join him. I thought that was cool but I never called him.

I also had a driving theory class in Pikes Peak College, Surprisingly I enjoyed this class. I started mingling with the kids. It was fun to know them. I also met an Indian professor who teaches communication.

A funny haircut experience happened. I went to a saloon near my house. The lady was so slow in cutting the hair that she used to pick not more than four hairs to cut them at the tip and then she moved to the next four. By the end, i was frustrated to see no change in my hair style. However she billed me $20. I was later introduced to cost cutters where asian women just shaved your head in no time using a cutter for just $10.

At office, I had a new team member named Paul Gardner. Paul and I will be working on the same project.

I mostly enjoyed my stay but there were times when I wondered why I was here? away from everything I have known. And sometimes i badly missed being in Bangalore with my friends.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Roads To Everywhere!

What a memorable month this has been. Everything is new and fascinating. Peggy took me  to a driving school for registration. But before enrolling, I had to pass a interview. An old lady named Karen took my interview. I had to give some tests like, connecting the English alphabets and to recognise different colours etc. This was conducted to test my knowledge of English language and to check how fast I could grasp things.

These tests were followed by some physical exercises. There were about 4-5 funny exercises for which I was judged. I wondered if it was necessary for driving. But Karen had all the good reasons to justify each and every test.

“This is for testing your concentration. And this one’s to test your judgment capability”.

The result of this rigorous test was that I had to practice on some of the exercises but could start my classes.

My boss decided to take me out for lunch one day to get to know me. He choose the restaurant named 3 margaritas. Though there are very few choices for a vegetarian, I liked the Veg burrito a lot. It was good to know that my boss, Alan too enjoyed writing. May it be Peggy, Mike or Alan, all preferred science fictions. This was common thing I noticed in most of the Americans I had met till then, they liked sci-fi and fantasy stories. On the other hand, I enjoyed more of reality. I was sure to get influenced.

Almost every evening I would take a walk around the Cotton wood creek park that was very close to my house. I enjoyed the sight of the Rocky Mountains changing colors with the setting sun.




Everything excited me here, everything was new and good. Firstly I enjoyed living in America. I realised that it is “The place” for lazy people like me. Everything is made easy and automatic to live. I did not have to struggle for any kind of work at home or outside. I truly appreciate this level of Convenience and comfort provided in America. In Bangalore I would be so tired to clean the house or wash my clothes but here, it was just a matter of pressing a switch. If you are bored of cutting vegetables, get a pack of already cut ones. If you want to have chocolates or food anywhere, it's just a matter of dropping few coins into a wending machine.

Apart from comfort side of America I was also impressed by the culture.One nature I liked the most is that people mind their own business. They respect others privacy and independence is a key word in their culture. Punctuality is another good behavior in them. Everybody respects time. I remembered how disrespectful I was to time and now it was time to change and change, I did.

But there are somethings that i found weird. Like for example when people had gathered for a meeting or training, they would actually sit there eating or drinking and would place their legs on the next chair and walk in and out as they wish. This act in India would be considered disrespectful.

But if we look at the root cause of every debatable issue like this, all of them end at one answer- Population. More the people, more the question of manners and formalities. More the people, less punctual they are and so on.

Like everybody else, I too was flattered by the US roads. I greatly appreciate the thought and planning put into development of interstate roads and traffic rules. While watching some of the Hollywood films, I always liked to see the speeding cars, especially the quick lane changes that they made and now it was a delight to watch them happen right in front of me.




So coming back to the driving class. After that interview I was scheduled for all the theory classes. My first class room session was on a Sunday, during the same month. I was the only 24 year old guy sitting in the room. I was surprised to see that all the other students were kids of about 14-17 years old. My first classroom session was terribly boring. It did not take me long enough to notice that these sessions were designed mainly for kids of age 15. That is the normal age when kids start to learn driving. But I have to appreciate the amount of knowledge they had about driving at such a young age. It was evident that being an observer in the car, since childhood, they have had enough exposure to driving skills. After that long day, I had to give my permit test. I passed the test and I was told that I could get my permit from the DMV (Department of motor vehicles). At the end of the class, there was a reason to feel happy for.

I met Subbaiaha one evening and we dinned at a Chinese restaurant called Asian empire buffet. It was nice talking to him.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Sister's Visit

On August 14th, my sister Anu, my brother-in-law Nagaraj and my sweet little one and half year old niece Varsha arrived to COS from LA. It was good to see them after almost more than two years. Anu had prepared  and carried with her lots of Indian dishes. For me, it was a treat to taste the good Indian food after almost a week.

The same evening we went to downtown Colorado Springs. Both my sister and my Brother-in-law noticed how small a city this was as compared to LA. But for me, this was the perfect place to be in; People, neither less enough to call it isolated, nor more to call it a crowd. We walked around the downtown for a while and stopped by Starbucks for some coffee. By now my niece Varsha was getting to know me a little better who was earlier too shy and hid behind her mother.


Next day, we drove up the Pikes peak, one of the tallest mountains in COS and the most beautiful i had witnessed thus far, so closely. I was overwhelmed with joy when i heard we could drive up this 14100 ft high mountain.

It was a 20 miles drive to the peak. It was extremely cold and windy up there making it difficult to stay there for long. Californians and an Indian who had never stayed close to mountains had forgotten their jacket back home. But the view superseded that coldness. It was breath taking.


On top of the pikes peak, I remember thinking how insignificant I am in between the mighty nature. I always felt that while i sat by the beach in my hometown and now I was on top of a might mountain and the feeling remained the same. The vastness of nature always easily conquered me and my thoughts.

Garden of Gods  is another park int he city. Its a beautiful place with sand stones. We had our packed lunch at the park. People seemed to admire the balancing rock and other almond colored rock formations but having seen many such sights from where i come from, it was not much of a surprise for me.


Later that day, we drove to Denver, which is around one hour drive from Springs. Denver is relatively a larger city than springs with then about half a million population. 16th street at Denver downtown is very beautiful and on this day it seemed very quite and picturesque. 




We tried looking for some Indian grocery store. We did not find the one we had looked up on the net but instead found a newly opened store. We bought some spices and then drove to hotel Woodlands in Aurora. While my sister and BIL enjoyed the food, i had a hard time with it. My sister told me that i could not expect the taste like in India and overtime would begin to love this. I did not doubt her on that.

On Monday the 16th, my sister left back to LA. I assured her that I shall be flying soon to her place. It was a great weekend and thanks to my sister for  giving me a home like experience in this new land.

Friday, August 13, 2004

New Friends! New Culture!

This was like starting a life afresh! Nobody knew me here and I knew no one. Life had given me a second chance to start over and reshape myself. I felt good but a certain amount of anxiety remained about the unknown.

Next morning, on the 7th, Peggy and her husband Mike picked me up from home. Mike is well built tall man with a very friendly attitude. He had a very wise smile. Peggy, a very sweet lady and he made great pair. I was so glad that the first couple i had met in this country were childhood sweethearts. I also met Brett, a young man, not much older than me, who lived with them.
On our way to Denver, Mike briefed me some History of the place and gave me a guided tour. At the amusement park called six flag, I met other employees of my company. Dipen Shah, was another intern from the same college as that of Aditi. Debra, Aditi's classmate and friend. I got briefly introduced to other colleagues. But I was glad to meet my boss Alan and his family. But my jet lag kept me a little dull all day.
At the park, while others enjoyed the rides, Mike and I just walked around. He told me how the park was actually moved form a old location. He seemed to be very knowledgeable about history. We discussed our interests and discovered that we had one common one – Writing.
The only ride I took that day was a roller coaster ride. Horrible! That was my first experience in a amusement park and nothing about it actually amused me like the others. I was extremely tired and over that there was a queue of one hour to get to the roller coaster and when I was about to take this ride and the guard noticed that i had not pushed the magnetic lock far enough to engage. He gave me a “oh that was close” kinda smile. The first roller coaster experience was ruined with a thought of what if the belt had come loose while i was in air. I felt like i was being dragged with high speed without mercy. I din't like even a bit but by the end of it, I was happy because i was trying something different and new for the first time in my life.
By the time i returned home that evening, I was exhausted. Next day (Sunday the 8th), Peggy picked me up at 2:00 PM and we went shopping. We went to Albertson and I was shocked to see a supermarket that big. Everything there surprised me – several varieties of Tomato, potato, onion, bread and probably multiple options for everything.
The next week that followed went slow. I met my new colleagues at office. My manger Alan, a gentleman, welcomed me to the team and introduced to all the engineers in the office. Out of all I was quick to befriend Ernest, who i hear has 6 gieco's as pets. A pet of that kind obviously sounded weird to someone like me who comes from a country where any kind of lizard can never be an invitee to home. But at the same time, I was noticing this total different perspective towards same subjects and that was very interesting. He told me that there were two types of Gieco. One that came out during the night and the other during day. He had the night types! Ernest helped me that week by teaching me a CAD tool that i was new to.
Everybody who lives in the US has to have a social security number which becomes your unique identity that shall be used for all future references. So, one afternoon, Peggy and I drove to the office to get that done. Unlike India, the Government formalities happened in a systematic manner through tokens and most importantly it finished quickly.
We had lunch outisde that afternoon and since I was a vegetarian, Peggy choose Super salad. I found that place very strange. Raw vegetables with some dressing was all that was available here. This was very weird but what else can a vegetarian expect in a foreign land in the first few days unless he explores the vegetarian cuisine in that country. But surprisingly, I enjoyed the food. It felt fresh and healthy. Brett and another friend of Peggy also joined for lunch.
Every morning, Peggy would pick me at around 8:00 AM and then we would drive to Aditi's house and pick her up. I did not have an Indian license, so I could not drive and i was yet to enroll to a driving class here. Till then, Peggy was my care taker. Considering this, she had chosen this apartment that was very close to her house.
I was also delighted to see a good number of Indians in office. There were about seven of them. Sajil and Shivanand where Kannadigas. Suman was a bengali and Priya and Prasad from Andrapradesh. And of course there is Dipen- Gujarati and Aditi – Punjabi from Gujarat. At our manufacturing setup, is another Kannadiga who has worked previously in our company in Bangalore. I was asked to contact him, Subbaiaha through a common friend.
One evening, Peggy invited Aditi and me for dinner. She told, that we would drive directly from office to her place at around 5:30 PM. That sounded a little wierd to me as that was too early for me to dine. In india that time would be somewhere around 9:00 PM if you had guests, if not even later. I was enlightened of the fact that Americans dinned early and then also had supper later in the night.
Mike and Brett had cooked Lasagna (An italian delicacy) and potato salad. I had no clue what the dish was. (I did not like it much as I had never tried it until then But today Lasagna is one of my favorites.) That evening there was a hail storm. Another first time thing!
At home, I did feel lonely at times as there was nothing much to do, Sometimes i went for a walk to a near by store or walked to the cottonwood creek park just opposite our apartment. The days during summer are long. It does not get dark until 9:00 PM.
Another interesting culture I noticed int he US was that everyone greeted one another. Strangers would say “Hi”, “How are you doing” or at least smile at you. This friendly gesture among Americans made me feel good and welcomed in their country. I could not help quickly relating to Indian situation. With a population such as ours, smiling and greeting every stranger would be a strenuous job by itself. And I wondered if bigger cities in the US had similar culture. To find that out, I obviously had to wait.
Most of the time, I was the only person using the footpath. As I carried back few plastic bags of groceery from a nearby store, people driving by would stare at me. In springs, almost everyone had a car and even a quarter mile trip to a store needed a car. Public transportation is not very popular here as in other big cities.
Though Peggy would insist on driving me to the grocery store, I did not want to trouble her always and sometimes took a walk to the kingsooper or Albertson. Sometimes I would shop more than I can carry back and that made it hard to walk back with loads of grocery.
With great eagerness, I looked forward for the weekend to arrive. My sister Anu was coming from LA and I was all excited. I could not wait!

Friday, August 6, 2004

Breaking The Barrier!

Covering 9711 miles / 15628.34 km; from Bangalore to Colorado Springs!


I had a habit since my childhood. I took a walk for an hour or so in my front yard, especially during the night. In a small town of Surathkal, in costal Karnataka, Power cut during the nights was a common scene. Everything submerged in the darkness and that made a perfect atmosphere for me to think. Nature and man seemed to be in harmony in that one hour or so of blackness. Under the star filled sky, as I walked, several dreams and ideas started forming shapes; one of which was to travel the world. It’s only on the 6th of August 2004 that I realized that dreams are not just a momentary pleasure but being submerged in deep corner of mind, they shall bounce back one day, as reality.

The company I work for was sending me to the United States of America, for a yearlong assignment.

It was a time filled with several “firsts” for me; first time out of country in 24 years; first experience in an aeroplane, a first long journey in air; first time this far alone; first time interaction with non-Indians. That list can go on and they were all good reasons to be excited. This was an opportunity for me to explore a different country with a different culture than that of mine but most importantly, I would be able to explore myself.

At the airport, my parents, my uncle and aunt bid me farewell. It was around midnight. After the bags had been checked in, I waited in a long queue for security check. I had to pass time and one of things I love doing in public area is observe the events surrounding me. A NRI mother was wildly shouting at her kid that created an awful scene. I chatted with a man traveling to Singapore.

The Lufthansa flight I was traveling in took off at around 2:00 AM. The first thing I noticed was the city all sparkling in the night. Bangalore looked splendid. After the plane had reached a certain height above ground, nothing was visible. So nothing to look out at, I took a nap.

When I woke up, I was dazzled by the view outside. It was bright and as I looked down, I saw white cloud like cotton candy spread all over. It was obvious but not normal to look down at the clouds.

While the plane was descending near Frankfurt, I saw beautiful heart shaped lakes. It was a beautiful sight from top. That was the moment that I realized that deep within me, I always wanted to explore the world and it occurred to me that the journey in that direction had just started.

It was approximately 9.5 hours of journey and I had 6 hours of layover at Frankfurt airport before I take another flight to Denver which had almost the same journey time. I was feeling a little uneasy by this long journey so I tried to sleep but could not. So I continued observing people. I saw a Tamil superstar accompanied by a famous actress and her daughter. Some Indians went to talk to him or smile at him but he did not care to return any. With a grim face, he walked into a liquor store.

In my next flight, I was sitting next to a father and son. The man smiled a lot but we hardly spoke. I enjoyed watching Shrek-2 on flight. That film changed my perspective on animated films, which I assumed to be for only kids. I was also made to fill the immigration forms and I94 card.

So after, aproximately19 hours of flight time, 6 hours of layover at Frankfurt airport adding up to 25 hours in total, I finally landed at Denver, USA at around 3:00 PM.

I had a very funny and embarrassing experience at the Denver airport.  The cart wheels refused to roll freely. I suspected it to be my two heavy check-in bags but now I think it could have been that the wheels were not unlocked completely. So I would guide it in one direction and it would move in a different. As a result, I almost hit the desk were an airport security guard was waiting to collect custom approval receipt.  I think I scared him a little as he wondered what was happening.

My journey was not yet complete. I had only landed in the US but not yet reached my destination. I had another flight to take; to Colorado springs. If I knew then what I know now, I would have might as well taken a taxi. But I was the first to travel to this part of the US in our company so not many who arranged m travel had an idea.

As I got down for security check, I was taken aback by the crowd. I was at the tip of a mile long queue.

My next flight was scheduled at 6:20 PM. So after the check, I made my way to the terminal. I loved the airport and the trains that transported people across terminals. On my way, I tried to get some quarters out of a change machine so as to call my sister Anu in LA. But my lack of knowledge to operate the machine and the telephone made it a little difficult. People I asked help from where also new the states.  But one thing I noticed immediately was that there were enough instructions written for everything, if you can read. So hence my independent life began!

After leaving a message for my sister on her answering machine, I waited for my connecting flight. We boarded the flight on time but then there seemed to be some confusion and we were requested to go back to the lobby. The reason, which I learnt later, was that the flight attendant had not arrived. Everybody got wild at this reason as we waited more than an hour for her to come. Some even got their flight changed. I sat there watching all other passengers get restless as I seemed very experienced to these long waits in the long journey I had had thus far. Another hour did not matter to my already 30 hours of journey. But my worry was about my colleague Peggy who was waiting to receive me at Colorado Springs airport.

Finally, our flight attendant arrived at 8:00 PM and explained how she was stuck in a very bad traffic jam on interstate. I did not know what an interstate was then, so I let me imagination run. A busy Indian street came to mind.

It was a small plane and the seating was very uncomfortable. The flight time was only 20 minutes and it was the bumpiest ride I had ever had. The flight was flying relatively at a low height as compared to my previous ones. On the west, The Rocky Mountains looked magnificent. By 8:30 PM I was at Colorado Springs.

My colleague Peggy and an Indian Intern named Aditi received me at the airport. They held a board with my name on it.  I was driven to the location where I was to spend one full year. Pine Bluffs apartment at the intersection of Dublin and Rangewood is a very impressive locality.  And my apartment was beautiful. It had a big living area, a open kitchen and three bedrooms. I obviously settled in the master bedroom. It was completely furnished and the smell of a brand new apartment filled the space.

Peggy left her cell phone with me just in case I needed to make urgent calls and told me that she would pick me up the next day at around 10:00 AM. There was a team outing arranged from the office at six flags, an amusement park in Denver. I called my sister Anu and informed of my safe arrival.

I was very impressed by the fact that with the help of Aditi, Peggy had filled my kitchen with some very basic food items like – Indian spices, Bread, Pulav Masala, and most important – Maggie. I remember thinking that it was very thoughtful of her to do them. The house had everything for a person to live in- Microwave, Oven, Vacuum Cleaner, Iron box, Dish cleaner, Washing machine, drier, refrigerator and television.

Probably because of a long journey, despite the jet lag stories that I had been warned of I had a good sleep. So this was my first day in America. A day that saw several new and interesting things, met good people and that only prompted towards a very exciting and interesting stay in this country that I had already begun to love!