It’s been a week since I have come to this great country. For those who think that I have become patriotic to the US already, by ‘great’ I meant big! I thank God for giving me an opportunity to experience international education in true sense. Well for a week now I have seen a bit of Minneapolis and thus a bit of the US. So what were the first impressions?
I think the things that really catches your attention first up are the roads and the traffic. Especially for someone like me who has lived in Bangalore, the smooth orderly traffic is strange. I think they need autos here to induce some turbulence in this smooth flow. Another thing that took some getting used to, was the act of drivers stopping for pedestrians to cross the street (those that don’t have signals). Many a times I wait for the driver to cross and he/she waits for me. A pretty comical situation I must say. But on the flip side when you are in a hurry to cross a major street, you can’t just cross weaving between traffic. You have to wait for the green signal which can be annoying at times. Another thing that catches the eye is the number of cars, most of which are big. What a waste of fuel. You rarely see more than one person in the car. No wonder the US is so far ahead in carbon emissions. But then I guess driving must be a real pleasure here. The roads are smooth, broad and straight. The freeways are really free! It’s nice to watch cars, bikes and trucks zooming by.
Moving on, the residential areas are clean and green. The houses look pretty made of brick or wood. All houses and apartments have lawns (waste of water?) and trees in the front yards. There are sidewalks for pedestrians and joggers. The university is a combination of old and new buildings lay out over a large area. I heard the places looks really awesome in autumn when all the leaves turn yellow, red and brown. Looking forward to that! There is the Mississippi flowing through the campus, which reminded me of BPGC a bit.
I haven’t seen much of Minneapolis yet. The downtown is a neat place. Not too crowded. And one amazing thing is that most of the buildings are connected by covered walkways two floors above the streets. They are the lifelines for the Minnesotan winters. I also came across a beautiful wooded trail along the Mississippi, a stone throw away from downtown. It was incredible to find such a quite forested are so close to a city centre. I also visted a lake, Lake Calhoun. After seeing urban lakes like ulsoor it was a big surprise to see such a clean water body in a city
Coming to the people, they all appear and sound really friendly. I’ll take that at face value for the time being. It’s a pity I have a tough time following their language. Okay you might say I’ll get used to it. But I have to get used to tens of accents. Chinese, Korean, European, Hispanic, etc etc. It is truly a melting pot of cultures here. And thus, I, in a hurry to find fellow Indians, have mistaken Bangladeshis and Malaysians to be Indians. And it’s nice to compare cultures. For eg. An Indian’s doubt about buses, “can I stop a bus in between bus stops?” or a Chinese senior explaining his initial anxieties, “I was worried whatever I said in class or outside could have been held against me at a later date.” But one thing cuts across all cultures and that is the use of the ‘weather question’ to make small talk. Looks like even if people don’t share an iota of similarity, at least we share the same blue sky above us. So talking about the wet day or Minnesota winters is the best for making conversation.
Among other things jogging on the streets is a pleasurable experience. There are tons of super fit people jogging around. So you are not like a mad man running around. But besides these fit people there are so obese people too. I guess that can be attributed to all the cheese and mayonnaise that goes with all the ubiquitous deep fried foods. Shopping can be an overwhelming experience. The shops are huge. There are numerous brands for the same product. And there are countless different products. Walmart had guns being sold over the counter. There are stores dedicated to pet food. America is an epitome of consumerism.
Then there are other things like a 10 percent tip at restaurants. That’s steep ain’t it? Drinking water directly from the tap. OMG!! Google maps is amazing for travel directions. It even tells you the directions from your home to the bus stop and what time the bus will come. Everyone loves free stuff. Here people leave furniture and appliances on the pavement to pick up for free or sometimes for dirt cheap prices through garage sales.
Some typical American stuff. Dumb warnings like ‘do not iron clothes while wearing’ on an electric iron. All automated stuff like vending machines, machines for bus passes etc. Everything is inverted like driving on the right side, the right brake lever is the back brake, the fridge door handle is to the right etc. A little confusing I must say, specially the driving on the rights side now that I have bought a bike.
So there, my first impression of the Land of Opportunity. Stay tuned for first impressions of the education system. Gotta go and hunt for furniture now!
Here I am - this is me
There's nowhere else on earth I'd rather be
Here I am – at the U
The place where i'll make my dreams come true.