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Archive for September, 2007

Every weekend long

29 September 2007 2 comments

First things first. I can’t drive though I have an Indian car driving licence. In a car-crazy America, that is sin of the first order. My second big mistake is to have left that Indian licence back home so as not to carry many identities. So, I cannot even try to use it here and test some cars 😉 These make my weekends miserably boring and long. I am stuck to my suite and there is no public transport in my suburb on weekends. Damn, it all adds up. I carry a big bias against cabs. I haven’t been to downtown yet. That explains. So, what do I do on weekends? Talk to wife, eat, sleep, watch some stupid Tamil movie I downloaded on a torrent, …

It is strange to realize that I am practically immobile without a car here. I must learn to drive properly and believe that the car is not only for the others.

My colleagues have been nice to drive around me a few weekends. I don’t feel too nice to be at another’s mercy. I am hoping to have some friends visit me here. Another option I have is to rent some bikes (not the motorbikes) and cycle along some good trails around here. Sadly, the rentals equal my daily allowance. I have less than two months to go now and I don’t know if I will be able to see around yet. Why is America so fond of cars? 

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Categories: Me

Books for friends

16 September 2007 5 comments

The next BAFAB (Buy A Friend A Book) week this year (tip: LifeHack) is from Oct 1 to Oct 7. Its simple theme is to surprise a friend with a good book for no reason. I’ve not been able to visit any library here so far. I’m actually dying to see one after hearing glowing tales from fellow book lovers. So who will surprise me this time? Archu, Jax or SK? Yes, I can send you my address here 🙂

Categories: Books, Friends

August flight

9 September 2007 3 comments

I have some luck with the month. Never mind that I could not post once this time. This August saw me flying over Greenland to the land of opportunities. The month had been hectic in getting a visa and the tickets as I do not have any other work. Just married and on the bench is bliss, I say! So as an old fortune-teller in the beautiful Tiruchendur seashore temple prophesied 10 years back and as is written in the destinies of most IT guys, I am here in the US. Des Moines is the place. I had never heard of it before this.

The dreaded visa appointment happened at good-old-Madras and I stayed at a hotel on Mount Road inspite of having countless relatives there so that I could walk fresh to the embassy. I had another friend from my company with me. After hearing random tales about interviews (apparently once they rejected a guy who could not spell a client’s name), I was a little nervous about it. We walked into the embassy at mid-noon. Post pre-qualification, the queue moved fast and we were soon inside the lobby. Fingerprinting over and all of us were anxiously waiting for the approval/rejection. Some senior consul officer gave good advice. My friend and I stood behind each other. The visa officer asked him about the project and approved his soon. My turn came and he asks me where and why I went to Australia. My visit to Madhan’s place apparently helped here as every one knows how serious Aus is about immigration 🙂  He approves the visa in just over a minute and I am happy.

The flight is not as easy as the visa. A mid-day flight from Bangalore to Delhi when all my relatives wish me good-bye. By luck, I get a business class seat and I do not see anything fancy about the service. A long halt at Delhi (including paid entry to the new airport lobby as my flight leaves more than 5 hrs later)! Just one call to my wife that I am safely on my way. As all of us happily wait at the lobby, a posse of policemen swoop into the lobby. I am jolted out of my reverie. There is unclaimed luggage close to where I am sitting. I am shooed away, along with many others. A fully equipped bomb squad guy comes and inspects it for quite some time. As he takes out each item one by one, he swears in chaste Hindi (some thing I learnt in Indore). Most of us watch the gripping spectacle while some are actually indifferent. At the end, he just drives the luggage away and we breathe easy.

As I check in at the American counter, they repeatedly ask me if I am going to Narita after Chicago. I am scared that I might after all reach Japan instead of the USA and I tell them I have never heard of the name. Things work out after a little delay and I get a window seat. My only grievance is my toothpaste needs to be checked in separately and they tell this as I am about to board. The flight takes off on time and I catch up on a much-needed nap. The 15 hour ride is so boring. When I wake up, we are over the Atlantic and close to Greenland. Seeing all the mounds of ice over Greenland excites me. The sun’s been up ever since I woke up though the local time is close to midnight. I am reminded of Kishore’s Alaska trip to the land of the midnight sun. The food is nothing to write about. As we circle Chicago, the big lake and the never-ending city seem to invite us warmly.

Only two questions on my visa and I can stay till 25 Nov. I claim all my baggage safely (what a relief!) and pass customs quickly. I put my luggage to the next belt and move on.  I step out of the international terminal and take the train to where my connecting flight leaves from. Here I can brush my teeth. A helpful guy reminds me to take my China lock and key from the restroom. Long long ago I remember reading about how OHare is the busiest airport in the world and look about in all directions where flights are leaving or arriving. There are some coins in the airport lounge and after some hesitation on security concerns, I pick them up when no one is looking. A cent and a quarter dollar, not bad! Those are my first US coins.

The Chicago-Des Moines stretch is fast over big fields. At Des Moines, I misread the signs to get my baggage and walk back. An alarm goes off and a police lady points me to keep going straight and not turn back. My baggage has reached much before me as I wait at Chicago for about 3 hours. I wonder where to get the taxi and drift off across the Hertz and Avis rentals before I realize that I have to go outside to get one 🙂 I had my Google Maps directions with me, but the friendly white cabbie tells me a little bit about Iowa, how he can afford to get a home here (he is from NY) and how there is no traffic here.  He wisely tells that “it is all over after marriage”. I smile and nod. The unity of humanity! Hehe.

At last, we reach my destination. The cabbie asks for a 4$ tip (what is normal?) on a $33 meter. He says he will leave the amount blank for me to fill for my receipt. I ask him to write it. This incident looks strange to me. I have always thought that in the developed countries, everything is by the rule-book and here I encounter a guy who offers me a chance to sidestep the system. As I meet my manager’s wife, I am safely IN the US.

Categories: Travel