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!

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