Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ann Arbor post - part III

As soon as I got out of the plane I hooked up with couple of my colleagues who had come in the plane. We were instructed to Immigration counter first.

I found myself in front of a slightly obese lady with absolutely no smile . She asked me a few questions like

“whats is your profession?

“Which company are you from?”

“Where are you going to stay?” etc etc

Then she tore off a part of the I-94 form and staples it to the page opposite to my visa page. This document would serve as the document that would authorize me to live and work in US for the time specified in the form.

Then we went ahead to the baggage claim section. I was slightly apprehensive about whether I would lose my baggage as I had to switch to planes with very little time. But thankfully I got it though I had to wait for it for some time.

Then I went straight to the customs. I gave him the filled in blue form which was given to me in the plane. There was not much to check as I didn’t have any valuables and also I didn’t have any food items, plants, animals or any other stuff. But still the officer in the counter asked me a few questions.

“What’s there in the baggage”

“Some clothes and a few kitchen utensils”

“Did you bring any food items Sir?”


“Then how are you gonna eat?? You gonna shop it here?”


“Okaiy!!Wish you a pleasant stay Sir”

“Thank you”

I was through!!!!!!!!!!!

So I was finally into the US of A after completing all the formalites!!

I waited for a few minutes for my colleagues to join me. Then we went outside to fetch a cab and set out to the hotel.

As we went t the transportation section a gentleman approached us and enquired as to where we need to go.

We told that we need to go the hotel and we need a cab which would accommodate all of our baggage!! He promptly called in a van and even helped us get the baggage into the van.

Since I have had infinite number of bad experiences with autowallahs in general and Chennai autowallahs in particular I found this experience very very very refreshing.

Soon we were cruising through the road towards Ann Arbor. I think the first thing that hits anyone who travels to US for the first time will be the roads. There are so wide,clean and well laid. Also the traffic is very well regulated and there are no traffic policemen. Everyone follow the traffic rule and to be frank I feel everyone follows them because everyone else follow them!!!!!!! 

I have always felt that 80% of things, if not more, we do is determined by peer pressure. An average person will start doing something if you could just convince him/her if it’s the most fashionable thing to do or if that’s what the most are doing!

I believe there will be a time when following traffic rules and other disciplined social behaviors shall be the example rather than an exception in India. Upto that day its upto the responsible youth of India like us to be the exception until it becomes the example.

This was what went through my mind as we went to the hotel marveling at the buildings and lawns that lined the roads on both sides. Another very noticeable aspect of this country is there is a looooooooooooot of space!!! They have ample car parks in front of any buildings and in places like a mall the car park is as big as the floor area of the building if not more. We had already been told that car is must in Ann Arbor as public transport is virtually null. EVERYONE has a car and NOBODY walks.

We found that out when myself and a friend ventured out of the hotel for lunch and scouting as soon as we reached the hotel. We couldn’t find even one soul who was on foot and it looked odd as we crossed roads in a hurry. The temperature never goes above 10 degrees Celsius and drops to zero at nights or when it rains. We were in spring and the climate was expected to improve as summer jets in.

As we went in search of food we discovered another aspect of this place! There were not many shops around and even the ones around were not in walking distance. There was a mall nearby but you got only dresses, automobile parts, jewellery and othe cosmetic stuff and not a loaf of bread!

So after loitering in the cold for around 30-45 minutes we entered a eating joint called wendy’s.

I was busy reading the menu banner so as to find some vegetarian meal. Atlast I decided to take a “simple classic somethingy”. Though I could see a meat like thing in the picture I decided I would order it without the meat as I was too hungry and there wasn’t too much of an option.

I went to the attendant and said I would have a classic burger without meat and then I added is it vegetarian?

And I got most bland expression on her face. I couldn’t believe that she didn’t understand what I said. I tried to repeat by what I said by infusing some American accent and added I would like to have it without meat!!Also I ordered some tea. After five minutes of tussle she finally tapped onto the machine in front which spat out the change for the 10 dollar bill I gave her!

As I dropped the coins into my wallet I felt “ How am I gonna survive here if I have to work so hard to get just one meal”.

My woes were doubled when I saw a brown colored piece in the stuff packed in my burger which looked like meat. I knew going back to her would be of no use! So I gave to my friend that piece of the meat and started eating the burger which was nothing but a bun,some cheese and few sold cabbage leaves!!!Nothing compared to the regular meal we have in India everyday!!!

The most interesting point was that it was the least enjoyable meal of all of my stay because after that we had been able to cook our own food and I have been able to order vegetarian food without any problems henceforth. Even now iam not sure whether the lady really didn’t understand me or was she just faking it!

That evening I was to meet the most helpful person in the whole of my stay!!
--to be continued.

Ann Arbor post - part IV