Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rohit's American Adevnture: Chapter 20: Another Fall Semester passes by

The Fall semester started with a a lot of promise. I was looking forward to the career fair and to catch up with friends who had been home for the summer. I was taking courses on Knowledge Management, Seminar on Decision Making and Management of Information Programs and Services. I was excited about these courses and was looking forward to have a good time. In the meanwhile, I was keen on getting my drivers license. I was happy to meet Dmitry, Margarita's brother. I had met Margarita at the Bible study group in summer. Dmitry was kind enough to teach me to drive. I enjoyed my driving lessons with him and was keen on getting my drivers license. I failed in my first attempt at parallel parking, which was my biggest flaw. I just could not parallel park. What made it worse, was that I kept on failing on a regular basis. I remember, my Wednesday mornings started with a promise that I would pass my drivers test. I used to return back with the kiss of failure and then used to sit through class in the afternoon, figuring out a way to get through the parallel parking dilemma. I got to a point where I lost all hope of getting my drivers license. I was also interviewing at a couple places and things were not working out. So, I was going through a lean patch where things were not working out and I was depressed. It hit me really hard, when I was confident I had a great personal interview with folks at Deloitte but they did not get back to me. I did surprise Dmitry on his birthday by smashing a cake against his face which was funny. I always believed in making people happy and giving them moments to remember for their life, in the middle of all the failure I was going through.

I also bumped into Maggy in the beginning of the semester and was happy. My heart was beating faster than ever and words could not come out of my mouth, as I was talking with her. Just having a conversation with her for 5 mins made my entire evening wonderful. I felt like I was in heaven. I did ask her when she wanted to do dinner and she said she just wanted to be friends. I just said to myself, why did she not tell me this when I asked her out for dinner at the end of spring semester. I took me sometime to finally get over her and start over.

I also had a fun outing on Halloween night. They were having a free burrito day at chipotle as long as you came wrapped in a foil or had foil on some part of your body. I somehow managed to get one, having a crown made of foil around my head. I got a call from Rafi, about what they were up to. I decided to join in and it was quite an experience. Since the metro close don 11pm on weekdays, I had to take a cab to Adams Morgan. That was an adventure in itself. I had to blow 40 bucks just to get there by taking a cab. I did not have cash with me, so asked the cab driver to drive me to an ATM. He happened to drive me to a Bank of America ATM while I had a chevy chase bank debit card. I did not know that time that my chevy chase card would work fine and I would just be billed an extra service charge of 3 dollars. The cab driver lost patience and decided to drop me back at College Park. fortunately, on our way back, I was able to find a chevy chase bank ATM and everything worked out well. that was by far the most expensive cab ride I have taken.I saw people in all weird costumes right from Ghostbusters to vampires on the streets of Adams Morgan. It was like I was in a different world, where everyone just wanted to have fun. I was calling Rafi and Sammy but they did not pick up. I walked along the streets for 25 minutes until I finally bumped into Ariel, who believe it or not was dressed as Nacho Libre. Once I met Ariel, it was easy to meet up with the other guys. What happened after that was a joyride. Rafi and Sammy were dressed up as girls, which was funny. We went into this pizza shop where they served these huge pizza slices. Those were the hugest pizza slices I have ever seen. The cab drivers were on strike that night; so we had to pay extra cash to get back home.

I eventually passed my driving test on a snowy day and my happiness knew no bounds. I was the happiest person that day. I will never forget Dmitry and Margarita for all their help and patience in middle of all this. I could not have got my drivers license without their help. Fall semester passed by quickly, paving way for my trip back home to India. It seemed hard to digest but I was done with three semesters and was one semester away from graduation. I remember dropping by Gab's pace to bid goodbye to my friends before I left for India. I was happy to see all of them. Rafi hinted the idea of going to Miami for spring break and then taking a cruise to the Bahamas. Everyone wanted me to come with them. I assured them I would do my best and would definitely go with them. I made my first visit to the Liquor store with Jimmy to get bottles of Jack Daniels for my dad and friend. I could not sleep that night. My entire room was in a mess with clothes and gifts lying everywhere. Stephanie Crist had helped me buy cream and shampoo for my mom and grandmother few weeks ago.
I had forgotten to get my I-20 signed, which was stupid of me. I would have no problem leaving the country, but when I enter United States, an unsigned I-20 would cause problems.

I was fortunate the folks at International Education Services Office were cool enough to help me out at the eleventh hour. Chris Garriott gave me a ride to the airport, which made life easier. I checked in my luggage and was all set to go home!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 19. Summer 07: More sir pays a visit

I used to speak with More sir a lot in my early days in America. He was like my mentor and I always felt good after talking with him. I was excited to hear that he was paying me a visit. I remember cooking sufficient vegetarian food for two days with Aimee. Aimee loved to cook and this was around the time, I got my cell phone after being in the states for almost a year. I was happy to greet More Sir at Chinatown Metro station. He looked the same and was dressed up in an American way, a t shirt and shorts. The walk from College Park Metro Station to home was long and I was feeling bad, I was making More Sir walk that much. Finally when we reached home, I warmed up the food and set up the table for lunch. More Sir has a high standard when it comes to judging and evaluating things. I was really happy to see a smile on More sir's face. He had enjoyed the meal. We spend the evening exploring the campus. More sir enjoyed visiting the Clarice Smith center of performing arts. On the walk back home, More sir was sharing with me thoughts about God and living a life dedicated to the Almighty. We had invited Amy for dinner that night. She had cooked pulao and brought it to my apartment. I felt like I was back home. I could not believe I was eating naan with three vegetables. More Sir was clearly impressed by Aimee's cooking skills. We spent the night talking about life. I had to take time off in the middle to talk with my parents on skype as it was a saturday night. I was surprised when I tasted egg free ice cream. It actually was not bad at all.

We went shopping the next day courtesy of Aimee. She drove us to a local mall. More sir wanted to buy some stuff for my apartment. He thought it was too depressing with no pictures on the walls. We ended up buying a lot more stuff including a bath tub scrubber to clean the bathroom. We had pizza for lunch and were in two minds about ways of spending the afternoon. More sir wanted to see Ratatouille, the movie and then head out to catch his bus back home. However, Aimee recommended going trekking in Virginia. After a lot of deliberation, we decided to go by Aimee's recommendation. We figured out the we could see the movie some other time and the trek would be special. The trek was a long walk. The only problem was it was hot and having a bicycle would have made life easy. There was a point in time, where we thought More sir would miss his bus. However, we miraculously made it back in time and More Sir was able to catch his bus. I kind of felt sad when More sir left. More sir had been my mentor all long advising me on things and important decisions on my life. He had purchased things by means of which, I could improve the way I lived life and be happy. I cleaned up my bathroom, kitchen and put up some pictures in the apartment to exude positiveness. I sent him pictures and he was delighted to see them.

Time had passed by quickly and summer had ended paving way for an exciting Fall semester

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 18. Summer 07: Pittsburgh Calling

My goal for this summer was to travel and have fun. I never liked to travel in India as it was often tiring, time consuming and cumbersome. However, I was curious to check out the different states in USA and was excited to travel. Traveling by planes was the most popular way to travel as it was fast and convenient apart from the zillion security checks.

I was in touch with Ravi annaya since the first day I landed in USA. I enjoyed talking with him and his words of wisdom. I helped his wife, Aparna in the application process of further studies in USA. Ravi annaya wanted me to pay him a visit as he had some spare time and wanted to catch up on things. I was also keen on meeting him and Aparna and decided to take the plunge.

The journey started on an uneventful note. My evening flight to Pittsburgh was canceled and they put me on an early morning flight bound for Pittsburgh the next day. The early morning flight was in a different airport Ronald Reagan which further complicated matters. So, I could spend the entire night at BWI airport and then take the cab to Ronald Reagan or go home, sleep for an hour ortwo and figure out a way to get to the airport. It is in moments like these you wish you had a car. Luckily, I had met an old lady at the airport who was in the same situation as mine. She was kind enough to offer me the option of giving me a ride to the airport in the morning and that made things simple. We took the metro from the airport and got off at our respective destinations near our homes. I slept for an hour after reaching my home. The flight was at 6:00am, so we had to be there at round 5:00am. She picked up me at 3:30 am and we were at the airport on time. The airport was quite a spectacle at 4:00am in the morning with no one around. I felt as if I owned the place. It was quite a surprise to get a call from my friend, Nitesh at 4 in the morning( it was 1:30 in the afternoon in India). We spoke about life and different things we were working on.

Post the security checks and a shot of strong coffee, I was happy to be on my way to Pittsburgh. I bid adieu to the old lady who had helped me at Pittsburgh International airport. There was more drama at the airport as I did not get my checked baggage. I had to fill in a baggage claim form hopping that I could get back my baggage in time. I was leaving the next day in the evening flight.

I was happy to see Ravi annaya and Aparna (Vadina) at the airport. The drive to back home was beautiful with scenic views of Pittsburgh's downtown and CMU campus. Vadina had gifted Ravi annaya a GPS on his birthday. It's funny in India, I never used map when traveling as public transportation existed to every place, especially in Mumbai. What's worse, is that we had a driver, who took us around, so we never bothered to check out maps. Whereas in USA, you needed a map when you were traveling as the concept of drivers was non existent. Everyone here loves to drive their own car as it gives them independence and freedom.

Once we were home, Ravi annaya was chalking out plans for the next two days. We decided to drive to Niagara Falls. The drive was long but fun. I brought back old memories for Ravi annaya and Vadina by asking about how they initially met and did they know they would end up marrying each other. The outskirts of Niagara falls was an interesting place. There were a lot of small Indian restaurants and roadside vendors which brought back memories of Mumbai. We wasted no time and headed straight to the Niagara Falls. It was the most amazing experience of my life, to be in the boat near to the falls. It exhibited how powerful and wonderful nature was. We spend the evening getting some food and seeing the sun set over the Niagara falls which was amazing.

I had an amazing breakfast of dosa and chuttney next day in the morning thanks to Vadina. Vadina and Ravi annaya were perfect for each other and I was happy to spend time with them. My lost baggage had arrived just in time before we left for the airport. My flight back home was again delayed but I did reach home eventually which was all that mattered. This was a short visit but a memorable one. I spent more time traveling, being held up at airports as compared to the time, I spend with Ravi annaya and Vadina. At the end of the day, it was well worth the visit and a welcome break from College Park