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!

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