I always thought three things would stay in my life forever, and I will never have enough of them – reading books, eating chocolate, and traveling to new places.
I have recently realized that one of those three, is ready to be dropped from the list. Unfortunately, it is neither chocolate nor the amount consumed. It is not the books, definitely, I am talking about my passion for traveling. After my last trips in 2022 – to Dubai and Italy- I have finally admitted to myself – I do not enjoy traveling. At least not as much as I used to.
I remember that – well, “excitement “would probably not be the right word to express the bomb of emotions and feeling… “triumph”, yes triumph was something close to what I felt, when in 1995, I was sitting in the Delta Airlines airplane, ready to fly to the US. I was going for the first time abrad; of course, I was almost the first student from my university to go there. Not only was I going to visit the US, but also to study with a full scholarship paid by American College Consortium as an exchange student. For a whole year!
Two months before that day on a plane, a new word came to my existence. Louisiana. Internet was not there yet, and I had no clue what Louisiana was. I was not going to study in New York. Or Los Angeles. That would be too simple. If the girl was coming all the way from the Kazakh steppes, she ought to end up in the very south. Baton Rouge to be precise.
American trip started with two months in Vermont, Sant Michaels College. Everything there was small, beautiful, accurate, and reminded me of life from postcards or fairy tale. This effect had been strengthened by the presence of real nuns in their outfits, eating and exchanging talks with us in the canteen. We were students, and as always, at a young age, despite not knowing anything about other cultures, we were making connections fast. Of course, that life was not filled with the nuns only, and I had to experience several culture shocks.
The first night, right after arrival, our group of post-soviet students, organized a party to celebrate arrival and acquaintance. When food was bought and beer was just taken out of the fridge, several fully armed police officers loudly entered the door and asked us for our ID. None of us was more than 21 ., so they took out the beer and opened it. Beer went directly to the sink. It was well-orchestrated and had its immediate effect on us. I bet policemen were laughing at us later. Minutes before their arrival, we were just a bunch of happy kids, and suddenly we became speechless from the police actions. So lesson number one – “do not drink until you are 21” – was a harsh one. And needless to say it was not our last party and this lesson never stoppped us from the essence of the student life.
The other cultural shock I received was the very next day – oh boy, Americans did not want to give us a chance to sleep.
We were in our rooms very late at night. I was already falling asleep – all unknown American words were ripping my Kazakh head all over, when suddenly I heard a sound of danger. Very very uncomfortable. Fear entered my body. “God, we are bombed,” – I thought for the first second. How unfortunate to die just upon the arrival to The States. Then we have heard the voices that it is a fire alarm and we should leave the building immediately. Me and Armenian roommate Inna(hi Inna!) left as we thought that moment almost immediately. We never heard about th econcept of false fire alaram for the traing purposes, so we went out directly in our PJ. While rushing downstairs, I was surprised to see that nearly all of the people from the dorm were already outside. Japanese students – around 40 were all dressed up appropriately, with brushed hair and their backpacks behind their backs. I suddenly started to think about the passport left in the room.
UK group i had a chance to meet earlier on was there as well – they were planning to party before, so I guess they did not even go to bed yet.
A big lamp under the tree made a space close to the entrance stage-like, and I must say, the performance of former USSR students was not flattering. Almost everyone was panicking, none took the documents, and everyone was not dressed. Our schools taught us a lot about how to behave when the war comes, while how to act when it is a fire, flooding or other higher probability events, none of us knew properly. So that was a second lesson Americans gave us on how to deal in emergencies ( To be continued )