This One’s From The Heart – Part IV

 

Part 1: This One’s From the Heart – Part I

Part 2: This One’s From the Heart – Part II

Part 3: This One’s From The Heart – Part III

And now the conclusion…

It was a rainy Wednesday in the New Haven area. Joe and I had just completed a reporting day. What had started in the morning in Hamden with a visit to the Public Works department had brought us all the way to East Haven. A church that listened to the name St. Clare was our destination.

I still remember the nervous heartbeats of that day. The announcement that I had to take on the challenge of JRN 524 Broadcast Journalism had caused mixed feelings.

I wasn’t particularly keen on exposing myself on camera. And all the clunky equipment establishes a barrier that makes some people shy away.

But I was keen on learning all about shooting video and experimenting with different camera techniques. In addition, I was excited to get to know professional editing software.

Although I saw the negative aspects clearly, I was glad that I had to take the class – I wanted to learn, and I wanted to leave my comfort zone behind. *

Joe: “Can you see anything? The snow bank blocks my sight. I can’t see a thing.”

Me: “Sorry, nothing but a white wall.”

Joe: “Guess, I just have to be extremely careful…”

When we had finally left the church’s parking lot, the pressure of the day began to fade.

Me: “Phew, that was actually exciting and fun. I think I’m gonna like this class much more than I had anticipated. And I find it surprising how open some people are, how willingly they talk to you on camera.”

Joe: “Yes, didn’t I tell you? That woman in the pink sweater? She was amazing. And that guy at Public Works? He wouldn’t wanna stop talking. It’s fun. But I’m more worried about how we are supposed to get Final Cut to work…”

Me: “We are gonna be fine. Trust me, Final Cut won’t be a problem. It’s just a matter of getting used to it. We’ll learn by doing it. I’m actually excited to learn how to operate Final Cut.”

The conversation kept going while Joe steered his car up North – back to Hamden, where Final Cut was waiting.

Joe: “You know what, I’m hungry. Let’s eat something before going to campus.”

Me: “Sure, I haven’t had anything since breakfast. Any idea where and what?”

Joe: “You tell me.”

Me: “Me? I don’t know any places I could recommend…”

Joe: “Wait, I’ve got an idea. You like wings?”

Me: “Like in chicken wings? Sure.”

Joe: “Great, I have just the right place in mind. It’s a chain, which I try to avoid, but they are special.”

Me: “Why is that?”

Joe: “Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s a sports bar with lots of screens and sports events you can watch while eating. And their wings are delicious.”

So we stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings and continued talking about sports.

Earlier that day, Joe did a phenomenal job diverting me from my worries about the upcoming St. Clare blood drive by giving me my first lesson in Baseball 101.

But the oddest thing happened at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I glanced around. Joe hadn’t exaggerated. There were screens all over the place. They were so big that they could divide the screens into quarters and screen four different events simultaneously.

I didn’t notice it at first, but when we had completed our order, I inspected this one screen closer. No way… I knew that the Champions League round of 16 took place today. But I was surprised to find European football screened at such a location.

Me: “Joe, watch. That’s a live match.”

Joe: “Where?”

Me: “Top right corner of the screen dead ahead. It’s football, or soccer as you might say. The competition is called Champions League. That’s a tournament where the best national teams from across Europe compete to find Europe’s best team.”

Joe: “Who’s playing?”

Me: “Two good teams. The guys in red are Arsenal London. They are currently on top of the Premier League in England. But I doubt they will stand a chance against Bayern Munich, the guys in the black jerseys. They are en route to the quickest German championship in history. They are fifteen points ahead of Dortmund. Bayern won the Champions League last season – they played Dortmund in the final, which took place in London.”

Joe: “So, Bayern are a good team?”

Me: “Probably the best team in the world at the moment. Won the triplet of Bundesliga league title, national cup, and Champions League last season, and they have just gotten themselves a new coach, Pep Guardiola, who was in high demand before he signed up with them. He won some fourteen titles during his four year stint at Barcelona.”

Joe: “Tell me a bit about what is going on there at the moment.”

Me: “Absolutely, now it’s my turn to make you more familiar with European sports. Well, Bayern will most likely dominate ball possession. 70 percent and above isn’t unusual for their style. What Arsenal have to do is to destroy their game, meaning they focus on their defense and try to keep a clean sheet.”

Joe: “That’s what I heard about soccer. Sometimes they just wait and do nothing.”

Me: “Unfortunately, I have to admit that it’s true. It’s gotten much more common for teams that face a much better opponent to focus on a passive gameplay. It’s frustrating for fans and those better teams alike. Chelsea London won the Champions League in this style two seasons ago. If those defenses work and the active teams aren’t on top of their game, it can get boring. The best thing is if the active team scores early because that means the game has to open up.”

I was cut short by the action on screen. Bayern had just scored for the first time. Talking back and forth about both American and European sports, lunch went by quickly.

I enjoyed the journalistic endeavors of the first half of the day, but I also enjoyed how we took turns in bringing our sports closer to each other’s hearts.

I was on campus when the following text conversation happened last Wednesday.

Joe: “Where will u be around 2 p.m.?”

Me: “Library. Study group questions, blog posts (urgent), first notes for final projects, you name it.”

Joe: “Hahaha me, my mom, Kathy and you are going for lunch and we’re picking you up around 2/215. Then we will bring you back home/to the library.”

Me: “I’ll let you know how it goes.”

Joe: “No choice.”

Joe: “You’re coming with us to New Haven for Pizza.”

Since resistance was futile, I packed up and left my comfortable library chair when I had received the go from Joe. I walked over to the meeting point we had agreed on – the bookstore.

I hadn’t even fully realized who was standing in front of me when I received a big welcome hug from Sherrey, Joe’s mom.

Still surprised me, although I had received similar treatment on my second day in the country when the leasing agent of my apartment complex welcomed me the very same way.

“Nice to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. Thanks for being such a good friend to my son.” She said quietly.

From then on, it was anything but quiet. Joe’s mom began asking me questions as soon as we had turned around in front of the bookstore. Joe had told me beforehand that I would know where he got his voice from once I had met his mom. But I knew from whom he had his openness and welcoming warmth.

This soothing mixture of curiosity and familiarity marked the ride to New Haven. The closer we came to the Elm City, the more I was ready to leave the study world behind me and enjoy this break.

I felt at home during that lunch. Enjoying my first New Haven-style pizza, I followed the quick exchanges between Kathy and Sherrey and shared some of my own background information in-between.

Sherrey: “Tell me more about your family, Kathy.”

Kathy’s eyes began to sparkle when she began sharing.

Kathy: “Well, I’m married with kids. Frans, my husband, is from England. We have two boys, Justin and Cais.”

Sherrey: “Two boys? How old are they? What are they doing? Where are they? Still at home?”

The conversation stayed afloat for minutes, until Kathy and Sherrey had exchanged all the details. The arrival of two big pizza plates resulted only in a brief pause of the talk.

When we left the restaurant, I realized that two hours had passed since I had left the library. It was a lengthy lunch break, yes, but one that made me feel more comfortable in my new environment.

When I waved goodbye to Kathy in front of the restaurant, I knew that the best is yet to come.

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.

This One’s From The Heart – Part III

 

Part 1: This One’s From the Heart – Part I

Part 2: This One’s From the Heart – Part II

And now the continuation…

Food is a delicate topic across the globe – especially for those of us who have just stepped into a new environment. Names, smells, flavors, even entire food items don’t match with what’s in one’s memories.

Me: “What exactly are Pop-Tarts, Joe?” *

I stood in front of hundreds of small blue boxes that all looked the same. I knew the brand, but the product depicted on the box looked unfamiliar. On first sight, they all looked the same, but they weren’t. I read “strawberry” on one box, “raspberry” on another, “chocolate fudge” on yet another one.

Joe: “You’ve never had them? Well, they are usually for breakfast. It’s pastry with a filling. You can either eat them right from the box or, which is what I would recommend, toast them. They are pretty American.”

Me: “OK, I’ll think about it. Don’t look too healthy, though. Besides that, I don’t have a toaster.

Joe: “Fair enough. You don’t miss all too much. And yeah, there are healthier options out there.”

We continued our round through the aisles. The cart was still empty. When we passed the tea section, I was taken back in time.

I was studying the tea boxes. The aisle was much quieter than the rest of the supermarket. I was looking for a specific type of tea – Earl Grey, my favorite. I had picked the least expensive one the first time around, but couldn’t get comfortable with this brand’s taste.

“Florian?” I heard a woman’s voice calling. At first, I didn’t realize. Why would someone call me? I didn’t know anyone in here. But the voice came closer and sounded familiar. I heard it again. I left the tea-world and turned around. Who was that?

A familiar face came in sight. I was surprised. What are the odds that I would meet someone I know in a supermarket in a town that was still new to me.

Me: “Hey, Kathy. That’s a surprise.”

Kathy: “I know. Nice meeting you outside the classroom. I’ve just stopped by to get some essentials. I don’t really like this kind of supermarket. The lighting is so bright, which makes me uncomfortable. And they don’t have a good variety.”

Me: “It’s a bit confusing, I agree. But I found some bread that looks familiar.”

I fished a rectangular package out of my little basket.

photo 1

Me: “See, that’s bread I can relate to. It’s not exactly what I’m used to, the taste is still a bit off, but it comes pretty close.”

Kathy: “I hear you. When we lived in England, it took me a while to adjust, too. No worries there. It will get easier.”

Me: “It’s something about the smell. It’s hard to describe. I’m more used to the smell of freshly baked goods. Here, it smells like a chemistry lab.”

Kathy: “You know? There are much better places to shop for food. There’s one a bit closer to New Haven. It’s a bit more expensive, but they have dedicated sections for food from around the world. I go there to find cornish pasty for Frans. I’ll have to send you some links.”

Me: “That would be nice, thank you.”

“Excuse me.” The polite interruption by another shopper reminded us that we had blocked the teas on display.

Kathy: “Uh, before I forget. I just talked with Frans about this. We would love to have you over for lunch or dinner one day. He’s out with Sikorsky a lot at the moment. But it should be better in March.”

Me: “Wow, that sounds great. Thank you, I would love that.”

Kathy: “Great, I’ll keep you posted. I gotta go know. It was nice bumping into you here. Have a nice night.”

Joe pulled me back into the present.

Joe: “Over here are all the coffees. Can be a bit overwhelming at first.”

Me: “Don’t worry. I’m not into coffee anyway.”

We continued our trip through the vast resources of the supermarket.

Joe: “Soda. That’s familiar to you right?”

Me: “Yeah, different name, but the world is pretty Americanized in that area. But you’ve got quite a lot of options here.”

Joe: “Ha, just thinking of something… Root beer. Do you know what it is?”

Me: “No, I mean, the name rings a bell, but never tried it. I don’t even think that it’s sold in Germany.”

Before I had a chance to ask for more information, Joe continued.

Joe: “Never? Whoa, that’s gonna change – today! It’s a soda, you’ll love it!”

We continued our shopping spree and arrived at the checkout counters with a cart that was filled to its brim.

Joe walked to one of the mini fridges positioned in-between the checkout counters.

“That’s still on me,” he said to the clerk, handing him a bottle. “He’s fresh from Germany and never had root beer before. I thought what would be better to make him familiar with the country’s food than to let him try root beer.”

After he had the bottle back in his possession, Joe passed it over to me. “Enjoy, Flo. I’m excited to find out what you say about it.”

I had learned of some typical American foods and had been familiarized with procedures in here. It’s always the little things that make the difference. How to weigh fruits and vegetables properly, what’s a decent cereal option, how to operate the self-checkout system, and how to get all the stuff home, to name just a few.

Thanks for making the transition into my new environment so much easier. The safety net just got stronger.

To Be Continued…

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.

This One’s From The Heart – Part II

 

Part 1: This One’s From the Heart – Part I

And now the continuation…

After two weeks in my new surroundings, I was finally able to step into the Quinnipiac community. The beginning classes alleviated the doubts I had begun to develop. Let’s go for a “pub crawl”…

Looking out of the window, I had a bad feeling about the day that was awakening. Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, began with snowfall. I was looking forward to my first exposure to Quinnipiac campus life – I wanted to get started. But the triage of text, email, and voicemail message around 2:20 p.m. confirmed my fears.

“Quinnipiac will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, because of the snowstorm. All classes scheduled at or after 5 p.m. are cancelled.”

Me to snow: I hate you, do you hear me?! Go away and leave me alone!

Snow has been a bad kid this winter, but it allowed for the semester to begin three days later.

First contact is always the most difficult part. I approached the glass front that hid room number 253 in plain sight. My pulse accelerated with every step I made.

As I came closer to the door, I saw people sitting inside. *

It was quiet inside the room. A quick “hi” here, an acknowledging nod there, but everyone seemed to be waiting for the professor to enter and give that relieving introduction.

But things warmed up quickly…

I removed my headphones and a conversation faded in. It was taking place in the room on the other side of the glass wall that I was facing. The topic was sports. The computer’s clock told me that it was time for me to leave the computer room and join the gathering in the room next door.

We were only three. The two conversationalists kept going. A warm “hi there” greeted me in-between two topics. I followed their arguments, trying to learn more about American sports.

The minutes flew by. Once in a while, Joe paused the conversation with the professor. He turned his chair around and faced me. Determined to let me in on the secrets of American sports, he explained what they were talking about.

Eventually, the sports talk group grew. Instead of trying to follow the conversation between two people, I now had to deal with three people talking about a phenomenon I didn’t understand.

“Hey there,” she said, trying to break through the sports barrier. I turned around and replied, “Hi, Kathy.”

Phew. Nothing against a bit of exposure to American sports, but several small dosages seemed to be more effective than a single big one.

Kathy sat down, retrieved here laptop from her bag, and said, “sports, don’t they have something else to talk about?”

While the sports talk picked up where it had left of when Kathy had interrupted ever so friendly, she pressed a button to turn on her laptop.

With a smile, she asked, “How was your week, Florian?”

The startling beep sound that revived her MacBook was the starting signal to a warm conversation. Now it was an active place with a sports conversation going on in one part of the room and a “normal” conversation dominating the other side of the room. Both coexisted in harmony.

“All right,” the professor eventually said, “I think it’s time to get started. His relaxed voice called everyone’s attention to the desk with the impressive backdrop of four flat screens. Class began, but the warmth stayed. The topics changed, but the feel of the conversations and the atmosphere did not.

“Do you need a lift home?” asked Kathy after class had ended. Before I could start answering, Joe chimed in, “No, I’ll take care of him.”

“Oh, that’s great,” Kathy replied, “you are a good friend, Joe. But if anything comes up, just let me know.”

We walked out into the winter night, arranging for a group project meeting on the way. We hadn’t even reached the door when we had found a consensus. So the topic changed once again.

“If you need a lift to the supermarket, Frans and I would be happy to help you out,” Kathy said. “That’s lovely, thank you,” I replied, “but Joe and I are headed that way right now.”

If I had doubts about the path I had selected, they were gone. I was in a safe environment, surrounded by good people. Quinnipiac had built a safety net underneath my high wire. Thank you, guys!

To Be Continued…

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.

This One’s From The Heart – Part I

 

The past few posts must have painted a gloomy picture about this adventure. It’s time to leave the dark side and take a peek into better times.

“Let us rent out the cameras first,” he said, walking down the hallway that separated the cafeteria from the eating area in the Student Center on Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel campus. *

“Then,” he continued, his voice fastening, “I’ll get you home.”

Looking at the person that was walking next to me, I remembered the first time we met.

Just a few weeks earlier on the remote North Haven campus.

I opened the door to the conference room on the upper level. I counted five people, but one person stood out from the rest of the group.

The program director was typing on his laptop.

Going counter-clockwise, three young women followed.

He sat at the top of the table, leaning in the office chair. A denim-colored baseball hat covered his short hair. Inspecting the hat, I read the letters N and Y. Intertwined, they displayed the Yankees logo – I knew that. It felt like a mismatch that he had decided to match the baseball item with a white Rangers jersey. I hadn’t yet come across someone wearing items from two different teams, and two different sports, simultaneously.

I didn’t memorize his name that day, but I remembered the face the next time we met.

“Sounds good, Joe.” I replied.

The equipment checkout counter was located dangerously close to a specific office.

“Hey Joe! Hey Flo!” A deep but joyful voice interrupted our waiting time. While the student in front of us kept checking his equipment, we turned around and in sight came Professor Hanley.

Hanley: “What are you up to?”

He leaned comfortably in his armchair, a laptop sat on a small stand. There was no desk in the office, but a couch hugged the wall opposite our program director.

Joe: “Just renting out cameras for our broadcast projects. What are you still doing here?”

Hanley: “Paperwork, meetings, you name it.”

“Excuse me,” said the student leaving the checkout area while trying to balance camera case, tripod, and mic.

Joe went through the then still confusing renting process first. He ordered “the same stuff as that guy”, which made the young woman behind the counter disappear.

A few minutes later, Joe grabbed two bulky cases from the counter and said, “I’ll be in Hanley’s office.”

I followed suit and ordered “the same” one more time. The woman disappeared again, so did Joe.

While waiting for my equipment, I heard the fast conversation from the office across the aisle.

Sports – what else would they choose as topic for their conversation. I lent one ear to them, while the other one focused on the counter.

After I had signed the checkout agreement, I hefted the Panasonic HMC 70 and the tripod, along with my backpack to the office door, and peeked inside. The conversation kept flowing.

Hanley, stopping the sports talk: “Come on in, Florian.”

I walked into the small room carefully, placed the equipment next to Joe’s, and sat down next to him on the couch.

Hanley: “How are you doing?”

Me: “Doing great. Joe’s been a great help. I’m getting much more comfortable in the new environment every day.”

Hanley: “Great to hear. Make yourself comfortable.”

And from there, they continued talking a language I struggled to understand.

Baseball here, football there, hockey in-between. I tried to follow, tried to pick up the lingo – or at least bits and pieces of it to start with.

Time went by, the two of them kept going, interrupted by friendly laughter here and there. Twice or thrice, they focused on me, pausing their discussion to explain what the issue was.

More than an hour after I had set foot into the office, sports talk released us back into the real world. I found it fascinating that I had just witnessed an hour of sports talk between a professor and a student.

The atmosphere in there was snug and comfortable. I wasn’t used to this. But I sure liked the embracing warmness the Quinnipiac community was sending my way.

To Be Continued…

* Disclaimer about dialogue and some details in this post: Not accurate, but that’s how the situations felt for me and how I have them in my memories.

Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part III

Bus stop on Whitney Avenue between School Street and Dixwell Avenue – City Hall in the background
Bus stop on Whitney Avenue between School Street and Dixwell Avenue – City Hall in the background

Part 1: No Big Deal

Part 2: Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part I

Part 3: Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part II

And now the conclusion…

Frustrated I was, but giving up isn’t my thing. I picked Whitney & School as the target for my second attempt to grab one of those motorized fugitives. I had fifteen more minutes of walking in front of me when I left home at 2:15 p.m.

Well, where exactly was that bus stop – to the left of School Street or to the right? Aha, that looks like an actual bus stop over there. That one was an easy pick. I felt that I was on track now.

But I was kept waiting. The minutes passed without a single bus approaching. No, that’s not correct. There were busses, but they were coming from New Haven. I counted two in the 30 or 40 minutes I spent waiting at the doorsteps of Hamden’s city hall.

An old “friend” lingered a couple feet to my right. The buzzing traffic vein Dixwell Avenue looked peaceful from here because the continuous flow of cars was regularly put to a two-minute sleep by the traffic lights.

The bus that stormed down Dixwell Avenue and turned right onto Whitney Avenue – turning its back one me – seemed to laugh me out of court. I could almost see its tongue sticking out toward me.

I was baffled. Where did that come from? I thought the bus goes just all the way on Whitney Avenue? Well, maybe my information was wrong. I waited some more, but decided to change plans eventually.

Hello there, Dixwell Avenue. Long time no see. I’m far from being opposed to utilizing my feet to get from A to B. But with just a few hours under my belt, Hamden was already testing me.

I was walking on the sidewalk on the left side of the street – the only one there was. I stopped my pursuit for a bus stop whenever I had passed a road sign, and turned around to see what was on it. No bus stop sign anywhere on the street.

Little did I know that my hunch to follow this street all the way back to the supermarket was doomed from the beginning. The bus used only a small portion of the street, but that would be another story.

I reached the bus stop at Whitney and Skiff eventually. What other options did I have? The waiting entered another round. I was anxious. I was already way behind my schedule. Guess I won’t be sleeping in a comfy bed this night.

If it weren’t for the sweat-pants-wearing fellow to my right, I would have loved to shout out to the world one seven-letter word: f-i-n-a-l-l-y! But I behaved and restrained the joyful jump to my mind.

I got off the bus thirty minutes later, the familiar façade of New Haven’s Union Station in sight.

The seaside breeze hit me hard when I made the left onto Church Street. High above the ground, I crossed the railroad tracks underneath.

Entering the furniture store about fifteen minutes later, I felt right at home.

Having had the opportunity to approach unknown people just earlier in the day, it felt easier to walk up to the yellow-shirted man standing at the computer terminal in the middle of the sofa area.

Me: “Excuse me. I’d like to order some items with your pick and deliver option.”

Coworker: “Sure. I was about to get out of here, but let me see.”

I did notice the annoyed look he gave me, but he seemed to have arranged himself with the extra work once he had logged back into the system.

Me: “Thank you, here’s the list of items I need.”

I handed the A4-sized sheet over.

Coworker: “That’s weird. Is that the bed you wanted? I get some weird listing for it, like four different parts. That doesn’t look right.”

Me: “Yes, the name is correct and the picture looks about right.”

Coworker: “Let me punch in all the other items first.”

The minutes passed as he worked the keyboard.

Coworker: “Well, that’s all. Let us check again if I got everything right.”

We went over the listing shown on the screen; all was there except the bed.

Coworker: “I’m at a loss regarding the bed. But then, I’m not from the bed department. You know what we do, I’ll leave it out, give you the order as it is right now, and you go over to the bed department, where they will be able to finalize everything for you.”

He handed over three different sheets of paper, and said goodbye.

About twenty minutes later, the final problem was sorted, and I had completed the main task for the day: buying furniture.

I satisfied my stomach through a quick stop at the cafeteria, got a few smaller items from the store, and decided to take a cab home – too exhausted to try my luck with the bus once again. I knew how to get on the bus, but still had no clue where exactly I had to get off in Hamden. Since it was dark already and I had two huge bags with me, I postponed this final battle with the bus system to the next day.

I arrived back home at 8:15 p.m. – six hours after I had started this trip. But I couldn’t quite call it a day.

Another thirty-minute walk to the supermarket was necessary to get some food and – most importantly – water. So I hit once again the sidewalk of Dixwell Avenue. I returned at 11:20 p.m.

When I had the provisional bed for the night set up, I glanced around. Whoa, this place looked empty and lonely. I was on my own – finally. After all the fighting to get to this point in my life, I had finally arrived. Yet, I was surprised by the suddenness and the fact that I missed home more than I would have ever expected. Although I had seen it coming for months, I only began to realize what it meant for my life.

I was free, and that made me jump for joy. But I was just in the middle of a huge turn-around of my life. Was I doing the right thing? I mean I was even struggling with using a thing as simple as a bus. I was constantly nervous, unsure about how to complete the next step. And I was on my own, completely alone. How would I be able to cope with what was yet to come?

I wish I would have know that going abroad meant turning my life upside down.

Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part II

IMG_0464

Part 1: No Big Deal

Part 2: Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part I

And now the continuation…

The parking lot looked like the identical twin to the one I had seen just a few minutes ago. Why is everything so huge here?

Walking past deserted row after row, I prepared for the task at hand. I needed a bus pass because I had no change in my pockets. And this supermarket was the only source for such passes that I could find.

I started my round through the aisles. Yeah, it’s a supermarket. Nothing I hadn’t seen before. But the differences laid dormant in the shelves. The chemical smell that emanated from the bread aisle irritated me. Ugh, what was that smell? I passed bagels, white brad, English muffins, Italian Bread, rye bread, cinnamon raisin bread, and burger buns. The optical impressions changed, but the smell didn’t.

I hoped to find alternative options in here once it was time to shop for food. But for now, I had another objective. I couldn’t find anything that looked even remotely similar to a bus ticket – off to another round and another one.

A sparkle of hope glimmered behind the checkout counters. They were selling something over there. I could see lottery tickets and phone-credit cards. I took my courage in both hands and approached the coworker who was just a few feet away – idling as it appeared.

Me: “Excuse me, sir,”

Coworker: “Yes, how can I help you?”

Me: “Where can I find the bus tickets, please?”

Coworker: “Right over there.”

He gestured directly to the area that had awakened my interest.

Me: “Thank you so much.”

Coworker: “You’re welcome.”

The first little success I was allowed to have. I walked over and added myself to the line. Reminder to myself: I need to ask for a 30-day bus pass. Don’t screw that up, please?!

The line got shorter one by one. My pulse accelerated in tune to the steps I made in direction of the counter. I need this bus pass to get to New Haven. You can do this. Why am I nervous? It’s a bus pass I’m trying to purchase. I wasn’t trying to get something complicated like a life insurance policy, or an expensive and life changing sports car, or an illegal drug. It was highly illogical to be so excited about this.

Finally, the last customer in front of me finished their transaction. It was my turn. I made the last two steps toward the counter.

Coworker: “Hey, what can I help you with?”

Me: “I’d like to purchase a 30-day bus pass, please.”

Phew. I had almost tripped over the 30-day part, but I hadn’t. I had made it. See, it’s easy, no big deal.

I smiled when I left the store. It had taken me an hour and a half to get to this point, but I had my first accomplishment. Yeah…

The bus stop was easily found. But it didn’t have a schedule. Well, I knew that a bus should pass by this stop every twenty minutes or so. So it shouldn’t be too long.

I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Nothing happened. I had an idea: Instead of waiting here in the freezing cold, I could just walk down Whitney Avenue. There should be more stops along the street, right?

I walked for fifteen minutes, but I could neither see a bus nor another bus stop. There must be a bus stop somewhere, come one… I kept walking. My stomach began to protest. So did my feet. All right, that’s it. I turned around and walked all the way back to the bus stop I knew. Whitney Avenue felt like a road to nowhere – an endless strip of asphalt that was about to swallow me up.

As I came closer to the intersection where I had found the bus stop, I made an unpleasant discovery. It had been 45 minutes since I had first reached Whitney Avenue, but I hadn’t seen a single bus. But when I looked to the horizon, a large blue vehicle came into sight that looked an awful lot like one of those busses that serve the area.

How am I supposed to catch this one? There’s no bus stop. The website says stops are clearly marked by a road sign. There are none – anywhere. Said I and watched the bus rushing down south and past me. How nice!

Looking after the vehicle, I realized that I had enough. I walked home and arrived there three hours after I had begun this frustrating experience. I just wanted to get to New Haven; that’s all! The positivity boost from the supermarket had been obliterated; thank you, bus!

To Be Continued…

Ah, Welcome to the Real World – Part I

And now the continuation…

Well, was it really not a big deal? These lyrics mirror my mind’s inner workings during the first few days and weeks in my new environment.

“Hey yeah, welcome to the real world
Nobody told you it was gonna be hard
You said hey yeah, I can’t believe it
I barely started now I’m falling apart, and it’s hard”
– Real World ’09 by Rob Thomas –

That brings us back to day two. The destination was a large Scandinavian furniture store in New Haven. Ah, New Haven, that was an easy one. Been there, know my way around, and the bus goes just straight up and down Whitney Avenue. What could possibly go wrong?

But I still needed a map when I embarked on my first mission. Knowing what to do after I had exited the bus was useless as long as I hadn’t found solutions to the obstacles in-between – especially finding the right place to board that darn thing.

In an attempt to combine a few chores, I had picked Whitney Avenue and Skiff Street as ideal location to begin the bus ride. Two stores just around the corner were supposed to make life easier. A department store should solve my Internet dilemma and the supermarket across the street was supposed to sell bus passes.

I approached the first store after a thirty-minute walk. It was an icy day. I kept hat, scarf, and gloves on, although the temperature inside was summery. SIM card, where would I find a SIM card? The electronics department should do the trick, right? I passed dozens of ice cream options to my right and children’s clothes to my left. TV screens were dead ahead. That’s it. Cell phones, tablet computers, DVDs, but where were the cards?

The adverts from a handful of service providers smiled at me – green and black and lots of text on one, magenta dominated another, and a light blue was the favored color on yet another.

I skimmed their messages. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I wandered through the aisles, trying to discover the gemstone I was looking for – a purple lettering that had the word ultra in it. Five minutes passed; nothing.

Should I just ask a coworker? The only one in sight was busy. What would I say? I played various conversations through in my mind while I waited for her to finish. But the guy she was with kept asking question after question. It was getting warm in here, and I didn’t really feel like approaching her anyway. Another time.

Crossing Dixwell Avenue was the only task I had to accomplish to reach the second store – the emphasis is on only.

The parking lot alone was big enough to hold a soccer stadium, if not more. Once I had safely crossed the half-emptiness of the lot, I saw the real problem. Dixwell Avenue was a wide and busy street. Shouldn’t have surprised me since I had walked the sidewalks of this very street for a good portion of the hike that brought me here.

I watched the cars passing by. There were no traffic lights – for pedestrians that is – in sight. And what could be a sidewalk was covered under dirty snow remains. I remembered, however, that I saw pedestrian traffic lights at the intersection of Dixwell Avenue and Skiff Street.

They enabled me to cross Dixwell Avenue in relative safety, all right. But I needed to cross Skiff Street, too. The Supermarket was on the other side of the street. There were no lights at the intersection, just a crosswalk.

Be brave, you can do this. I approached the crosswalk carefully, step-by-step. I looked to the left and saw the cars rushing up the hill. They had still a green light. I used the time to observe the intersection. Why was this guy just making a right? He must have had a red light. Two crossing streets couldn’t have had a green light at the same time. The light switched to red. My chance, I thought.

I looked left – safe. I looked right – not so safe because cars were about to intersect the crosswalk I needed to use. I was confused. How am I supposed to reach the other side of the street in one piece? I waited until the last car had disappeared. I couldn’t see any additional vehicles approaching from that direction, and the lights hadn’t changed yet. I took a deep breath and aimed to set my right foot onto the street. My turn, I rejoiced.

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I turned my head to the left to check one more time. That was when I suddenly saw a car just short of three feet away in front of me. I bounced back a step. Phew. What are you doing? You’ve got red, dude! But the car had already completed the right turn onto Dixwell Avenue. Little did I know that it’s legal to do that in this country. But I bet they are supposed to watch out for pedestrians, right?

Well, I gave up. There must be a safer way to cross somewhere closer to the supermarket. So I walked down Skiff Street. The next intersection, which was basically just the entrance to the parking lot, baffled me even more. I wasn’t surprised to find no pedestrian street lights, but why could I see a sign telling me to push for a signal? There were no lights…

Not even thinking about the option to take my chances to cross in-between all the cars leaving the parking lot, I continued. Two minutes later, I could finally see a big yellow sign with a pedestrian on it. Phew, I had found a safe way across the street eventually.

To Be Continued…