Saturday, November 1, 2008

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