Saturday, May 12, 2007

Living and learning

A couple of days ago, my cousin sent me pictures of her apartment in a mid-west city. Her company has sent her "on-site" and this is her visit to the USA. As I looked at the pictures, a total feeling of deja-vu stole over me.

Circa 2001., my very first trip to the US. Only, back then, paper photos were very common. Within a week of landing in the US, I had bought a disposable camera, clicked pictures of my apartment as well as Davis from all possible angles, developed prints and dispatched them off home to India.

Based on my own experience, I bet within the next two weeks I am going to get more pictures from my cousin with captions like "Us in front of blah-blah building", "Me doing thingummyjig in Watsizname place" and so on :-)! Ah, been there, done that :-D!

Anyways, that got me thinking about a few of the interesting things that my friends and I did as first timers during the long process of adapting to a new country:
  • Get totally into the spirit of cleaning. Pour water all over the bathroom floor. Only to realize that there is no outlet for the water to drain. Spend the next couple of hours manually mopping all the water up.
  • Put aluminium foil inside microwave. And see a mini diwali take place inside the microwave.
  • Have a bath in a bath-tub by just splashing water because couldn't figure out how to turn the darn shower on (turned out there was a ring around the water spout which needed to be pulled downward - seriously, does the average bather need to have a PhD in plumbing systems?)
  • See a totally flat-topped cooking range in the kitchen while considering an apartment for rent. Anxiously ask apartment manager in concerned voice, "Oh, there is no stove! Do I need to buy my own stove?" And have the apartment manager say, "This is the stove!"
  • Try to boil an egg in microwave. And see unboiled egg crack open in less than 10 seconds and ooze all the yolk out.
  • Stand in the bus-stop, staring down the right side of the road, waiting for the bus to show up. And get startled when it arrives behind you, from the left side.
  • Cook merrily in the kitchen for the first time and suddenly hear a strange continuous beeping sound. Have more experienced people in the house tell you that it is the smoke detector going off and that fanning the area beneath the detector would stop the beeps (having experienced people in the house when you hear the smoke alarm for the first time was a bonus. Otherwise copious blinking and confusion was guaranteed).
How many of these have you done and do you have more to add :-)?

Sign-off anecdote:

In Davis, a bunch of us had once gone for dinner to an Italian restaurant. All of us chose pasta entrees. These entrees came with a side. When the waitress came to take our orders, she asked each one of us "Soup or Salad?". Now, the waitress had a thick American accent and spoke pretty fast. When she got to R, this is how the conversation went.

Waitress (W): Soup or salad?

R (confidently): Yes, super salad.

W (confused): Would that be soup or salad?

R (confused too): Yes, I would like the super salad.

By then, the rest of us had grasped the situation. Evidently, R was hearing the options as either a yes or a no to having "Super Salad". While the waitress was hearing the menu options being repeated back to her. One of us could have helped out, but at that point, we were too busy clutching our stomachs and laughing. Finally, my friend S recovered enough to tell R, "She is asking you if you want a side of soup OR a side of salad." R then sheepishly told the waitress that he would take the soup.

Of course, after that incident, the rest of us always made it a point to solicitously ask R if he wanted to have "super salad" whenever we went out to eat :-)!


K2K, PacNW said...


More to add to your list...

Things one does:
* Ask a friend where you can wash and dry your underwear. Your friend rolls eyes and talks about laundary machines.
* Convert price in USD to INR and give a sigh every single time before taking your wallet out.
* You are jet-lagged, got up early, you are hungry, not sure what to eat, you eat rice (left-over from dinner last night) for breakfast and your friends who do not even have the concept of breakfast give you a disgusting look.

Advice one gets:
* Discard clothes that have anything to do with Pink (if you are a male, of course).
* We are close friends but do not ever walk close to me or put your hand around my shoulder. We are not in India (advice may be specific to males, but rumour has it that some females get it too).
* Avoid vibuthi or kungumam that might get you curious looks and sometimes you will be told to wipe off the dirt from your forehead.

சிங்கம்லே ACE !! said...

LOL :):)

I, too was baffled by the smoke detector.. :) :) couldnt figure out what the sound is :) :)

soup or salad is really funny.. :) :) I had problem with "whaazzup" the first time i landed here.. i kept on asking could you please repeat to my manager who avoids me now a days :) :)

vishesh said...

lesson learnt never move out of india where i know things.....if i move to US i will be looking at that palm beach much is that??

SK said...

LOL @ soup-er salad.
Yes, I remember the initial days when I used to think it happens only in my place, with me, only to realize later, the uniformity of this country, kills any uniqie experience. I am talking about the counless chain stores and restaurants. Hahah.

Saumya said...

:) - you have a knack for hitting the nail on the head Archana. At first, I used to feel really flattered that people said "Hi" to me when I went on a walk, and was also disappointed that it was the Indians who did not do that.

Small talk and politeness of almost every customer service rep and the return policy is another thing that I wrote home about :)

Ok said...

Here are a couple of things that happened to notice:

1. In India when you walk you stare at people. If you do it here the smile back at you and you think "Man do I know this guy".

2. I answered some kick-ass question in class. So the Prof was "So could you tell me your name" I was like "Ram Sir". "Oh! Ramsey huh?"

3. I go to a restaurant and tell no meat. I get the question "Oh! So fish is fine right:

Archana said...

K2K - LOL :-)! Thats a nice list. The vibuthi bit is too funny!

Ace - heheh :-)! It took me quite a bit of getting used to - this random "how are you" and "whazzup" from every other person!

Vishesh - ah, but then, you are missing out on learning new things na :-)? If you buy that palm house, I am signing up to be your best friend :-P!

SK - that's true. No matter how far you travel within the country, one place usually looks like another!

Saumya - thank you! I know what you are saying - it is the desis who usually avoid eye contact :-)! Politeness of customer service reps :-0? Are you sure? Especially on the phone, they suck!

Ok - lol :-)! Yeah, for some weird reason fish is considered "vegetarian" at some places!!

Archana Bahuguna said...

I 've done the microwave boiled egg thing :-). I "love" to suggest doing that to the newcomers :-). It's really wicked but fun!

Prabhu said...

funny post!

the mopping the restroom floor was sooper funny... pour water and realised no outlet :D

the toughest part when u r new to this place is to order a pizza over the phone...i used to go to the pizza place than making that guy understand over phone.

Archana said...

Prabhu - ah, now i remember the pizza ordering part :-) - I usually asked my senior roomie to do the ordering after I listed my likes - simple, na ;-)?