Thursday, February 21, 2008

Comedy Over Coffee

This poster was seen at my coffee room yesterday. I couldn't resist snapping it up!!
By this afternoon, someone had drawn a hand in blue marker in the blank space below!

At nearly 90 inches of snow for the season here in Madison, I think it sums up the sentiment pretty neatly... Of course this applies to the locals only... and some desis too... not me obviously!

In the words of some smart adman, I'm Loving It!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Madison Winter Festival

We went to the Madison Winter Festival last Sunday (February the 2nd). And boy was it fun!!

The MWF is held every year and consists of ski races, Nordic walking, snow tubing, ice sculptures and great fun!! It is held in downtown Madison, outside of the Capitol building. They had dumped tons of snow down there to build a ski track! We went on day 1 of the festival – it just lasts two days.

We watched a few races, ate delicious American style pizza (pizza on a thin base, unlike how you get it in India) and nearly froze our feet!! After all the outdoorsy stuff, we hopped in to great coffee place near the church. It was warm and homely and full of students from the University, studying or doing assignments or surfing the web or just catching up! We spent nearly an hour there, warming ourselves before we headed out once more into the sub zeros!

It was late, the sun had gone down and we had missed the kite flying competition of frozen Lake Mendota. But we still had some fun in store! We drove down to Lake Monona and took a jaunty walk across its frozen surface! Twelve inches of think ice layered the surface of the snow, but if dug your foot into the powdery snow on the surface till you reached the sheer ice beneath, you could see the lapping water underneath – remember what we studied in school about the anomalous expansion of water? No? Google it dummy!

We walked and played and freaked me out by jumping on the surface and willing it to break – yeah that was part of the activity! We met some really drunk guys who were sitting around fishing! That’s right, fishing! They’d dug these round holes at intermittent distances and put in a line with a yellow flag on the top. According to one of the guys who gave us a complete lowdown on how the whole thing works, once a fish gets hooked (pun unintended I assure you), the screw-wound reel starts to rotate and the yellow flag stands erect ( it’s parallel to the ground when you send the reel in) and that’s how you know you’ve got a catch. So then you reel it in like a normal fishing line. After more playing in the snow and walking around, we made it back to terra firma, much to my relief! And we drove back home!

And that was the next brilliant day after the previous weekend when we went to a ski resort!!

Touchdown And A Month Later

I could not keep the tears out of my eyes when I said goodbye. And it wasn’t exactly the kind of good bye I had pictured in my head – and I had pictured it a lot! Outside the overcrowded doorways of Chennai’s Anna International Airport, a hurried peck on the cheek of each member of my family passed for a farewell on the night I left India for the US. I walked on through the crowd and once I was inside the sliding doorway the crowds had enveloped the familiar faces that I was going to miss in the coming months.

Several delays later I was at Brussels with just enough time to spare to get security checked and run to the next terminal for my connecting flight to Newark. It was unreal and with so many desi techies on the flight, I didn’t feel all that bewildered. More sleep later I was at Newark. And that is when the full force of things hit me hard in the face!

America. The land of plenty, of dreams, of fast cars, of Hollywood… of everything that we see on the tele and read in books. As I stood in the queue for immigration, I could not suppress my grin. I was finally here in America! I never thought I would come, but here I was. Everything had happened so suddenly, I had not expected or wanted it even, but here I was. I think I was in shock!! The sights, the sounds, the smells… I was lapping it all up hungrily! All at once, I wanted 360 degree vision, to be able to overhear conversations, observe people, fashions of the day, signboards, hair color, accents… I just wanted to soak it all in! I was in sensory overload and I was scared some, excited some, plain bewildered some, and my arms were aching from carrying too much hand luggage!

Immigration and baggage claim later – which involved fiddling with the alien currency for a trolley dispenser (India rocks, trolleys are free there) – I was running across the length of Newark’s Liberty International Airport to make it to my flight to Madison. Oh I nearly got lost! And they said take a train to the terminal and the very concept was so alien ( all the other international airports I’d ever been to always said take the escalator, or walk-alator, or the stairs or the cart, but train?! Huh!), so alien that I thought I heard wrong and went around in circles! I finally found the air train(!!) that took me from one terminal of Liberty to another one two stops away. And I was running again, for my next and last flight. Running, running and I was in finally! A making-me-claustrophobically small aircraft with one stewardess all the way to Madison. But I was having fun! I was doing what I love doing on trips – people watching!!!

Before I knew it, we were taxing on the runway and I saw the famed Manhattan silhouette, with Liberty and the waterfront! Oh I couldn’t wait to explore, but there would be more time for that later, I promised myself that! I arrived at Madison, welcomed by a blisteringly cold day, and without any of my baggage! Seems like I wasn’t the only who was lost at Newark!

The first few days at Madison were full of questions! I think my roomie completely got sick of me and the incessant questions I was asking! I couldn’t/still can’t stand not knowing, I wanted to experience everything all at once!

Well it’s a month down now, my bags are with me, and I’m settled in my own room well enough to start noticing the not so rosy things about this place. I miss home every once in a while. I think I miss good company more than I miss home as such. I miss being a click or buzz away from my friends, the ones I would chat with everyday from office or home. I miss having hot tea and dinner waiting for me when I get home from work. I miss not having to make a decision on anything – about whether I’m running out of vegetables, whether I need to soak kidney beans tonight for tomorrow’s dinner, whether my shirts need ironing… I miss not having to worry about chopping onions and chipping off a nail accidentally. You know I should really stop writing now, before I get all homesick!

But life is good! I’m feeling as un-independent as I have ever done in so many years. All my independence from home is out the window and I am starting over. Plenty to learn and explore. Work is different from anything I’ve experienced offshore. I’m not the best person here, but I’m learning. Thanks to the internet and a great family and some awesome friends, I’m just a click away from any company I need. Hopefully, there’s something even better at the end of all of this! Even better than a two day snow storm and walking through 9 inches of snow to reach the parking lot from office, and getting frozen fingers in trying to clean the windshield (psst : I loved it!!)! Better than the anticipation of being able to drive in a while. But definitely not better than going down to Charlottesville at the end of this month – nothing is going to beat that and I’m uber excited!!

Welcome to America!


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