US Diaries 2017 – Note #0

This thread is about my experiences during my stay in US during the summer of 2017

Note #0: 22nd June 2017

The excitement was on since January 2017 when three of our students (Aadityan, Ojas and Sundarraman) got selected for a 5-week summer program called PACT (Program for Algorithmic and Combinatorial Thinking) to be held in June-July in Princeton. Luckily for me, I also got an opportunity to attend the course as a student. 

Finally the day had arrived and we all met at Mumbai airport to leave for Newark (NYC). The Air India flight was a direct one and very comfortable. It was my first long haul flight but it didn’t seem boring as usually people tell about long haul flights. I managed to do some work, get a wink for a couple of hours and watch a movie. At a couple of instances we managed to get some good views of Greenland while we were flying above it. It was a series of mountains covered with ice and water bodies flowing through them. It was a very beautiful sight to watch. The boys also enjoyed the flight. It was a first time flying experience for one of them and he enjoyed it pretty much.

We landed at Newark safely on time with a lot of pending sleep. The immigration went on well. The cops (except for one) had lost their smile. So was the case with most other staff at the airport. But as we came out and met some cab drivers and ground travel staff, they were very kind and helpful. We tried to check if our luggage would fit into a yellow cab (even though it seemed difficult) and the cab driver helped us with all our heavy luggage and also to take it out when he realised that it won’t fit. There was a Gujarati airport staff, Hitesh, who helped us call a min van (something like an Innova car in India). It was a flat rate from Newark to Princeton (about 40 miles) at $96 dollars + luggage + toll + a small tip cost us $ 120. Aadityan was carrying a US SIM from India which didn’t work when we landed but started working once we got into our apartment. So we had to use the cell of our taxi driver to call up a student who was supposed to be in our apartment (where we were supposed to stay) as he had got the keys from the house owner. 

The delight for the boys’ eyes was the variety of cars that they got to watch on the way to Princeton. All the cars that they dream to see in India, like Porche, Limo, Bentley, they got to see all of them. I was busy taking pictures of these cars to send them to my son who loves cars.

Soon we reached our apartment. We knew that it was a Princeton faculty’s house and a 4 BHK one. So we knew that it would be big. But we didn’t imagine this big. It was a two-storied one with a big store and some space at the basement, a big front room with a dining table on the first floor. The first floor also had the kitchen and an office room. Since the owners have small kids, we could see a lot of fur toys and books and baby stuff. The second floor had four bedrooms. The wooden floors made some noise as we walked, but I loved it more than the concrete floors that we usually have in modern houses. 

We settled down in our rooms. We decided to have a quick shower and go to a Lebanese restaurant that was 1.4 miles away for lunch. But what we didn’t expect that (which I think all Indians who are first timers in US also face) is to see the absence of buckets, mugs, taps and hand showers in toilets and presence of toilet rolls. All four of us looked at each other understanding what’s going on our minds about how to do ‘those things’ with the resources that are available. Bang! Here we hit the most difficult problem.

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