Study Abroad Tales

“What’s Filter Coffee?” And Other Horror Stories 0.4

Welcome to America

Here’s a piece of advice: to really live in America, keep your eyes, mind and mouth wide open. That’s all.

Of course that’s not all. Let’s go on this journey together.

SUPER-SIZED SUPERMARKETS

Not only are they bigger than football stadiums, they have aisles dedicated to bread alone. The variety was overwhelming. I must have sniffed twenty kinds of wheat before giving up and screaming “I JUST WANT SOMETHING WITHOUT PEBBLES IN THE CRUST.”  I walked into the chips section and life-sized bags of Lays Lay’s Layz Cheetos stared at me threateningly from the shelves, reminding me who’s boss.

Special note to vegetarians: People will tell you it’s easier to stay fit since you’re not eating all that meat. Don’t listen to them. For every bacon-wrapped beef roast, there’s an extra cheesy grilled cheese followed by a thick chocolate shake. No one is immune.

THE WRONG SIDE

Scene: I’m walking down the road, eager-eyed and ready to charm. I see a car ten feet from me. The guy in the driver’s seat smiles at me and goes back to staring at his phone while the car is still moving. “Eyes on the road!” I scream. Then I realize the actual driver is on the other seat and does, in fact, have both eyes on the road. I, on the other hand, look right, find nobody, and begin to cross while an oncoming car comes to a screeching halt on my left, inches away from me. This scene repeats in different neighbourhoods and at different times of the year.  

THE RANDOM (WRONG) THINGS

In Bangalore, distances are measured in standard units of “double meter madam.” The concept of miles was lost on me, especially when the GPS asked me to proceed for “three-sixteenth of a mile.” These were fractions I’d left behind many moons ago, and they were back to haunt me at the worst possible time—when I was driving on the wrong side of a road filled with green signboards ordering me around.  

Still, I’d expected these adjustments. But there were some other things nobody bothered to tell me. When I was in a public bathroom, I noticed an enormous gap in the door. Why did it exist? Sure, people were nice enough to avoid the sight of me on the toilet, but why give them the option at all?  

HOMES AND WALLS

The cupboards in my apartment were tiny. I know I sound like the kind of person who’ll scream at you for not buying me a horse for my birthday but I was startled, okay? It’s disorienting to find that your bag of chips is bigger than the cupboard you want to put it in.

Also, the walls and ceilings are very thin—it’s like living in a cardboard house your ten-year-old cousin built. Not only could I hear my neighbours’ voices right outside my bedroom at midnight, I could also hear them flushing. With time, I knew how much water they drank and if they overdid it on Pizza night. It was a neighbourly bond like no other.

THE WONDERFUL THINGS

Have I been ranting again? I’m so sorry. There are also some amazing, refreshing things in America. Just take the addresses. They’re short, they’re crisp. I finally figured out why the address box is so small in all their forms. Indian addresses somehow feel the need to describe everything that surrounds the destination, all the streets that lead up to the house, and the resident’s life history.    

But I guess the most wonderful thing was my first night in the new apartment. As an obedient South Indian daughter, I bought some milk and boiled it, a tiny ritual to welcome us to the new home. The only problem was, I’d forgotten to bring glasses so I walked into CVS with a new friend and bought the famous red party cups I’ve only seen in movies.

“These are party cups. We should be using them for parties. People use them to play beer pong,” she said.

“Yeah, and I’m using it to drink hot milk after a nice puja,” I told her.

And we remained friends forever. Don’t ask me why.   

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