Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Insignia in America


There are a couple of things which is worth sharing here before I actually set foot on US of A

First, I was really really really in awe of one particular thing in Changi. :-D Guess what??

The loo!! Yeah you guys read it right. The loo. It was so clean, not a corpuscle of dirt. I was feeling bad to be stepping into them for it might leave a dirt mark, it was so speck less clean

The next thing was unfortunately for me, prior to my flight for over a month; I had been watching NatGeo's Air crash Investigations. Each episode re-built the case, the crash and its aftermath. Hehehehehe, what a nice way to be preparing for your maiden air journey!
Co-incidentally, I was seated by the wings. Whenever the flight landed, I could see the flap of the wings raise up to allow air to pass through. A couple of times, it was dreadful as I thought the flight developed a technical snag and we are going to crash!!. :-S

Can you imagine my nervousness? Yeah right!! You all can laugh out loud now.

With all such drama, I landed at SFO at 12:30 PM, that would be 12 AM in India, my sleep time. I was tired, very sleepy. Immigration took about 20-30 minutes. The officer at the immigration was very gracious, full of smiles, inviting, with a "Enjoy your stay". I just got reminded of the immigration farewell I got back in Bangalore. This episode was uneventful, I grabbed my luggage and set out. I was to take a cab to my hotel which was in a different city. I had no idea where that city was, how far it was and how long the journey would be. I was supposed to go to Sunnyvale, and I also was aware of San Jose - both are different cities, I was of the opinion that both are one and the same - such was my knowledge.

Anyways, as I walked out, I was in the same condition as an alien would be on earth!! I did not know where to hail a cab. I thought, just keep walking on the road, hire an empty running taxi, as we do in India :-D. I cant stop laughing as I remember all those thoughts that were popping up at that time. OK, the thing was, there was not even one generous soul who had already travelled outside India to countries such as these to be educating about certain much needed stuff as these.

I took my baggage cart and was loitering. An attendant asked me what I was looking for. I said I was looking for a cab. She told me that there were airport shuttles available. I said it was OK and that I was looking for a taxi. She then smiled and asked if my company would take care of the expenses. I smiled back and said yes. I later realised why she recommended me a shuttle service. She showed me where I could hire a cab. I walked just across the road, oblivious to the rules. A security guard just came on time, told me I cant walk on the road like that :-), he helped me with my cart and asked me to wait while he would find me a cab. So there I was, waiting in queue for taxi, got one after 5 minutes and started to Sunnyvale.

I found quite early that the cabbie did not know where he was supposed to drop me!!! What the heck! I got so nervous. Everything was happening so fast. I was taking in the new country that I have just entered, the wide and clean roads, flyovers criss-crossing like snakes, queer thing called as ramp, people following traffic rules, no men and women loitering on the road, no crowd, no bus stops, no dogs and cows on the roads, no litter, no trash....Oh..you name it and you wont find it!!

I was sleepy, nervous, excited and overwhelmed. I wanted to laugh, but more than that I wanted to cry at the situation I was in. Yeah, coming back, I figured out that the cabbie did not relate to the address I had with me. All I had was my hotel reservation mail, which had an address and along with it,route map. Aah, a route map. So I struck a deal with the cabbie. I told him that I would give him the directions and he has to follow it to reach my destination. I would call this as the most foolish guts I could have ever had - being a navigator on my first ever journey in an alien land!! How much more sarcastic can this get?

I have still preserved that sheet with me, the hotel reservation and the route map. Souvenir you see! Thought of scanning it and uploading them here :-D

Hmm, so I was reading from that piece of paper, the directions to my never-seen destination. I wont even know if I have reached the right place!! Yup, so it was a dull voice muttering as if woken from a deep slumber - Take US-101 S towards San Jose, go along for 28 miles, take the Lawrence Expressway Exit for 0.3 miles, right on E Duane and left on Stewart. This is what I literally read. The driver followed it religiously and I was relieved bit by bit as I was reading these names on the sign board.

But I don't know what US-101 is, what freeway is, what an expressway is, what an exit is, and how long is a mile!! The one straight US-101 freeway was scary because I thought we were going on and on and on.

Just as we touched Stewart and I saw the sign of my hotel which was familiar, as I had seen a photo; was I, what to say, came back to life. The cabbie was a friendly African-American and he incidentally was in Delhi sometime back, he was all blah-blah about it which I didn't pay any heed to. I paid him without battling an eyelid 105$, though I quickly converted to INR and almost managed a faint.

The cabbie left my baggage at the reception and I informed the receptionist that I had a reservation. When she asked for my name and searched for it under reservations, she said "Oh, we don't have a reservation in your name!!" Oh would this ordeal have any end at all? Then whether she found it or she just gave me a room - I didn't bother to know. I got my room. Once I went in, I searched for instructions to make a local call. I called up my team lead's desk at office. He was already there; travelled before me about 2 months earlier, but he didn't come to receive me :-( Sob...sob....

Luckily for me, this time it was right, he was at his desk and he told that he would come to meet me in an hour's time. He was put up in the same hotel as me. He came by and took me to an Indian restaurant. Left hand drive, wearing seat belt, automatic cars was all new, very new to me and yes, the clear parking slots and people using the pedestrian walk button at the signal to cross the road, cars waiting well behind the yellow line to let people cross the road, people yielding to others going on the main road, no tail-gating, cars neatly driven one behind the other, no overtakes, no honks whatsoever, no kids and elders stretching out their hands outside the window, no bus with people standing on the foot board, no auto rickshaws, no huge trucks with overweight goods, no petty grocery shops, no street side vendors, no street hawkers selling at signals, no beggars on the roads :-D, not 'a thing' that I was accustomed to seeing.

At the restaurant, it was Dosa for me; for 5$. My currency converter started working and again I rolled my eyes. When would I stop converting? Its OK, its too early. I could not eat because it was around 3 PM which was devil's time in India, sleep time. I wasted the food and I could have died in guilt for wasting around 240 Rs worth of Dosa!! :-

Phew!! I just realised my post has got lengthier again. I am stopping it right away!!
My last portion would be regarding a couple of incidents that taught me life's lessons.


  1. Nice writing. But I really feel how much frustrated you were at that time.

    I have a question. Why nobody from your company came to receive you at the airport. You said your lead was already in USA. Is he not supposed to take care of his people, and that too a girl arriving in an unknown country. I just give up. I am very sorry for you.

  2. I echo what SG has said. How come nobody came to receive you? But on second thoughts, this must be exhilarating, going to a foreign country and managing to do every thing on your own. You deserve a big round of applause.

  3. life is a bitch sometimes.. n u seem to hav handled it well.. wats 1 rupee here is 1$ there.. so i think it was pretty cheap for the dosa..

  4. hiii

    nice post...enjoyed every bit! I never know ur life has been so adventurous...!!

  5. Hi SG,

    Ahhh.. frustrated may be. But it did teach me a lot of things. It was as if I was pushed into a deep river, either sink or try hard and save yourself, what if I didn't swimming? None of others business.

    I learnt a lot, life's lessons I would say. I cant talk for my lead. Maybe because I didn't ask him to help me. I was not sure if I should ask any help, for that I was still new to a job, still trying to adapt to corporate world, still trying to get out of the college/student life.

    But I did manage well I guess :-)

  6. Hi Aparna,

    Thanks for the comments. I don't know why no one came to receive me. Well, business visitors are most times looked down upon by fellow Indians in USA. I am sorry to say this, but I have quite an experience with fellow Indians there. I will talk about them in my next write up.

    Yeah, on the other side, it was elating!! :-P

  7. Hi Vishnu,

    Welcome to B Log

    Hmm, life is not so harsh after all, it teaches you lot of lessons.

    Hmm, whats 1 Re here is definitely not 1$ there. :-) I mean, you cant have an equal comparison, its like comparing apples to oranges. However, anyone who travels to a new country for the first time where the currency value is higher, would definitely end up converting back to their known native currency.

    Imagine, would you pay $1.08 for a banana? Wont you convert it back to INR and panic that you might get around 45 bananas in India? :-)

  8. Hi AS,

    Thank you. Yeah, adventures or misadventures, whatever way you want to call it!! :-)

  9. At least you had the opportunity to roam about a bit...and the freeway must have been awesome! I long to drive on such roads.
    Here in Mumbai, one barely gets to touch 60 let alone a freeway.

    That first day must have been exhilerating! But it really is frustrating that no one came to receive you, especially when someone was already there before you.

  10. nice one insignia...beautifully written! there is adventure in misadventures too...so all in all i guess it's fun to go through such experiences :)

  11. You said you can't talk for your lead. You did not ask for help before leaving because you were fresh out of college and inexperienced. But it is the job of the supervisor/manager/lead to make sure travel is as smooth as possible, even without asking.

    You said you were going to write about Indians living in USA. I hope you differentiate between those who were born and/or brought up here and FOBs. Please don't paint all of them with the same brush.

  12. Hey...i wud have almost missed this blog as well...but nope :)! now this is fun and brings me memories of my first travel as well.. yeah i can imagine the look on yur face when yu'd have landed the first time..just like an alien:)! and lemme tell yu i had dosa for 6£ , now how much is that?480rs...and then had to buy bread for 2£ = 160rs!!! ever since then i stopped this damn converstion!! but still it irks every corner when i convert! but then console myself saying the money i earn is not less as well :)!! well tats it? any more of yur comedies? he he..tc


  13. Plus just to add to all those who have mentioned abt the trouble...i understand that its pretty scary always for a gal to take up on yur own, but as yu have commented back, i agree...we have to save our a** when we swim and yu did the rite thing by not asking anyonez help...yu'd learn a lot and rite yu are in saying we aint in scool and in corp world!!..no offence but..real credit to yu :)!


  14. Hi Shaunak,

    Yeah, it made use of the opportunity to roam around a lot..a lot. I guess now there are quite few nice highways that have come up in India where you can cruise, but yes, in Mumbai it would be tough.

    Not only the first day, first few days, or rather each day was an experience, something new popped up. Yup, no one came to receive me, thats ok :-)

  15. Hi Gayathri,

    Thanks much for your comments. Yup, it was fun, fun, fun all the way!


  16. Hi SG,

    Thank you for your comments

    Well, yes thats what even I think. But they did not bother to even know how I would be reaching my destination. Its ok in a way, I learnt the hard way. Else, if it were easier, I would not have done further trips with high confidence.

    I am definitely aware of the FOBs and people living there/born there for a long time. In fact, there have been lot of instances when Indians who have been there for very long time have helped me. Its with the FOBs. I would not generalize about all FOBs, but most of them were unhelpful. Maybe there are generous FOBs, unfortunately, I didnt get to meet such folks.

    More about these in my next post

  17. Hi Hary,

    Yeah, we end up converting right? But cant help. You know what? I stopped converting after few days and totally nil next trip onwards.

    Yes, even though no one came to my rescue, this was really a hard way of learning. You get that unknown strength under such circumstances.

    Thank you for your comments :-)

    Yup, couple more incidents on the way!

  18. i think its has been the indian mentality to be a haggler n get a product as cheap as possible..

  19. I would have enjoyed such a situation, exploring a new place on ur own...I usually prefer it that way when I am travelling on my own...I refuse for a pick up...it's fun, don't u think? very interesting write up gal...:))

  20. Hi Vishnu,

    Maybe yes. The art of bargaining is being appreciated by the west now and they are emulating it. So its good. And its expected to bargain!

    And yeah, we are a population of middle-class, so quibbling is the order for everyone, and its part of society. If an American would have been brought up in India for a long time, I am very sure he would have adopted to it too and would have bargained when buying things when he visited his home country!

  21. Hi Neha,

    Thanks much for the comments.
    Yup, its fun to be exploring the places on your own. I prefer it that way too.
    But this situation, everything was my first time, airport, flight, a new country, everything... so I was nervous :-)

  22. well, its normal to be nervous, but its still fun...:)))

  23. ;-) Well, It obviously was fun!!
    That sort of fun when you are with mixed emotions - scared, nervous, excited, overwhelmed....hehehehehe..

    Once in a life time experience :-D

  24. A truly courageous women :)

  25. Hi Surya Kannan,

    Thanks much for your comments and welcome to B Log. :-)

    That's quite a statement. You have mentioned 'women'. Hope you were referring to me. If so, that was a blind courage, which pops out when you have no other way than to survive.

    Keep visiting. :-)

  26. Oh!! These first time ventures can be so eventful! So many things happening so quickly!! Reminded me of my first days in USA. Loved the post yaar. It was so fast paced that I never realised when it began and when it ended! Was a great read! Ask your TL not to come near me, else he would end up beaten up! Some people become so snobby sometimes. It is surprising! Am so glad you found so much fun in such an unexpected, eventful experience. :-) You made it girl!! I am very disappointed with the Dosa incident...

  27. Hi Gautam,

    Yup! so many things as if in a movie, at such short span.

    Hahahaha...he is no more my TL. I quit my first company :-) which you are aware. Its not only my TL, I would share few more stories of disgusting personalities in my next post.

    Thanks Gautam, yeah had to make it, else no other way!! Dosa, oh yeah...thats OK.

    Thanks much for your comments, glad you liked the write up and its really a relief when you said it was fast paced. I was again worried about the length

  28. Hehe.. it was a nice read..! very lucid description...

    i m proud of you!

  29. Just noticed you have been ranked 73rd by Indiblogger. Congratulations. You deserve it.

  30. Bosses always boss around don't they? I guess i'll be learning that when i start working.
    Good post; it's not lenghty!

  31. Hi Abhi,

    Such incidents will remain crystal clear in one's memory until death. Thank you so much dearie :-)

  32. Hi SG,

    Thank you so much :-)
    Oh, its not 73rd ranking. Its like our school marks, the more the merrier. I would like to get 100/100 sometime :-)

    thanks again :-)

  33. Hi Kish,

    Hmm, my boss was a sweet lady. She took care of me until she was my manager. These things happened because of few other people's indifferent attitude. Will write about it sometime.

  34. hi..first time to your BLog:)) and read the trilogy of Insignia in America..the posts are such an honest account that one might be feeling on travelling to a new country..loved it..very nicely written..hope to read more on this series..:))

  35. Hi wishes galore,

    You are actually second time here :-)
    Glad you liked the trilogy a lot.

    Just described what really happened and what went through me :-)

    Yes, I have a follow up on these posts. Would write sometime soon.

    Keep visiting!

  36. Thanks for correcting me and explaining it. That shows how much knowledgeable I am.

  37. Hi SG,

    It seems confusing to me too. Let me recheck :-)

  38. That was one hell of an experience.. but let me tell ya.. that s how u learn..

    Make website india

  39. Hi workhard,

    :-) Very true. That's how one learns. If things were easier, I would have been ignorant.

  40. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  41. I guess US of A having its own charm.

    Is not it your highest comments grossing post I guess till its own publication. Right?

    I am traveler by nature.Like to explore every thing at my own at least in first experience later on ...I may opt for comfort. :)

    First time having exploring some place is just gr888888888888888.

    Keep smiling.

  42. Hi Makk,

    Thank you. Yeah the country has its own charm. I would prepare exploring than comfort :-)


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