Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Strange New World. Chapter One: Baltimore

Many of you already know but for those who don’t - adventurous me has been planning a whole new adventure for the past 6 months – which has kept me busy enough to keep me from blogging, socializing and being the human that I usually am.

The adventure in question was travelling half way around the world and go all over the country for half a year in the name of education - hence get financed by my cutie-pie Dad.

I am not going into the nitty-gritty of how I planned and planned till I dropped or how everything worked out or how excited I was when things did work out – as those things are meant for educational blogs and the other usual kind of blogs explaining how to succeed in life and the sort. I am not the sort who makes life easier for people just because they are lazy – so move on to some other blog (which I am sure there are plenty of) for such details. Mine is an enlightening blog where you learn stuff you could never learn anywhere else and that is why I have 38 followers even though I have posted just 10 posts in the past one year (Love you guys!). Hence I begin from the time I took my first step on the soil of United States of America – not in the hopes of achieving the American dream someday like every other immigrant taking their first step in U.S.A, but in the hopes of making this an experience worth killing for if not worth dying for.

JFK International airport, New York - I just kept repeating in my mind “New York, New York, New York” until I could get accustomed to the fact that the 14 hour HELL of a flight did finally get me to New York. Exit Flight and I literally screamed out New York – No, not due to excitement – It was so freaking unexpectedly cold that my mind decided to speak up. Have you seen that Russell Peter video in which he talks about the guy who farts in front of every plane that lands in India? Well, let me tell you something he did not say – in U.S.A you enter a blast freezer every time you exit a flight. It was supposed to be spring for crying out loud! After the dueling port of entry interview – where they determine whether you’re a terrorist by staring deep into your eyes for 10 seconds (which I passed with flying colours even though I was itching to stick my tongue out or make funny faces during the ‘duel’) I entered New York – and it was snowing – in spring. No jacket, no gloves and no scarf – I felt like a frozen chicken carrying three heavy bags. Cab ride to Penn station and until we reached Manhattan I thought I was in depressing, disgusting Mumbai (no offence) and then it happened. Empire State building came into sight, I realized the Persian taxi driver was playing loud trance music and we passed through Times Square, Fifth Avenue and all the heavenly places I have so far seen only sitting inside a cab – thanks to the weather. Train to Baltimore - on time, eventless and blah.

Jump forward a few days –during which adequate measures were taken to keep warm. My friend and I decide to explore the neighborhood of the best hospital in the whole wide world – Johns Hopkins, baby!!! – And for all those who think it is Harvard – you’re wrong.

All those House MD episodes when I wished I could be more like him and attend Johns Hopkins too – sigh – dreams come true! Classes were so good we felt like we would be Nobel Prize laureates had we graduated from here. For the first time things that never made any sense made sense – if that makes any sense. Everywhere we went – even when we were downtown shopping for groceries we had our Johns Hopkins IDs on – that is what visiting medical students do when in Johns Hopkins! We got ourselves Johns Hopkins sweatshirts and caps and mugs and everything money could buy. We were Johns Hopkins students and full of it – even if it were only for 3 months. For those of you who don’t understand, I have two words – Sour grapes.

Two months done and there begins hot, hot summer. I was born and raised in Dubai – so I used to consider myself well acclimatized to heat. But heat in U.S.A is unbearable! It is bright, hot, sweaty, sticky and I have to walk all the time! Unbearable. And I was hoping all this time that it would just get warmer! In addition to all this torture of summer you have to deal with half naked people running around or just lazing by in the name of getting a tan – the luxuries of having fair skin. If I did that I would look like a piece of charcoal, if I don’t look it already. But there was always something to smile about – if nothing, just reminding yourself of being in Johns Hopkins.

In between trying to save money, sketchy neighborhoods, eating cheap Chinese food, dealing with a frustrating landlord, cooking Mom’s recipes and cleaning bathrooms there were fun times like taking long walks to no particular place at 8:00 pm when it is bright and sunny, taking pictures of ALL sorts of people in Fell’s point, visiting Edgar Alan Poe’s grave, subway-delicious-subway, starbucks-heavenly-starbucks, rowing classes(thanks to a friend), sushi bars, awesome crepes, free KFC (thanks to a patriotic fellow Indian in U.S.) and movie nights. Work was not too time consuming or tiring, the hours were so considerate, professors so approachable and people strangely super friendly. The first time a person said ‘Hi! How you doing?’ in the street I almost asked ‘Do I know you?’ But then I remembered Julie Delpy’s dialogue in ‘Before sunset’. And since then you don’t think twice before ‘Im great! How you doing?’ Whoever thought I of all the cynical people in the world would be amicable in a society of super-friendly strangers.

Three months flew by too quickly, and more than anything I know my company helped me have fun, with a little assistance from my considerate work hours. Somehow I just don’t expect the same out of Chapter Two - pessimistic me.

Lessons for enlightenment:
1)There can be years when there is no spring – like 2011.
2)Make sure you have good company during your first month or be extremely good at making friends fast.
3)Do not forget - Strangers are super friendly – do not be flabbergasted or rude, I almost was.
4)Try to spend money wisely – the keyword being ‘try’.
5)Take loads of photos, glad I had my friend for that!
6)If you work hard there will be time to party harder.

At the end of Chapter One: Baltimore -
An experience worth killing for if not dying for : Mission Accomplished.

Next up Chapter Two: Chicago.

P.S.: Link at the bottom for commenting – super optimistic me. Sigh.

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