Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Have a good day y'all!

August 2011

So I’ve never been to the USA before. My visions of the US are big people, big cars and big food. Oh and hicks. My first encounter with an American was getting onto the plane to Atlanta. She was a nun, reinforcing the whole Christian image of the states. Putting my anti-religious feeling aside and helped her lift her bag into the overhead lockers. That will be going on my CV for application to heaven.

The flight was pretty uneventful. Just very long. Even longer when Russel Brand is prancing around on the screen pretending to be a big kid or something. I thought it was a documentary but apparently it’s a “popular film” according to the inflight magazine. I then saw that the most expensive perfume on sale was also “popular” so  I stopped believing the magazine.

As we came into land at Atlanta a smile was brought to my face looking down at the stereotypical American houses in the suburbs with swimming pools and cars in the drive. The cheery “have a good day” reinforced the good feeling I had as I left the plane, showing me that Americans sure are nice people! However, this was shattered going through the psychological torture that is immigration and customs. Such a ‘dumbass’ system. Going through immigration wasn't so much of an issue as I had heard about. It amused me watching the different nationalities and how nervous some of them looked in trying to get through the plate glass and enter the US officially. The immigration officer I was in line to looked mean. And I mean mean. Like he was guarding the gate into the Mines of Moria or something. The English charm of “Heya, you alright?” did not work one bit. He sized me up, took all important paper work. Looked at me, at the paper, at me again and then asked something of me. I was taken aback at this point, not having a clue what was going on and in the process looked like some foreigner (Ok, so I am, but that’s not what im trying to get at). Aparently he wanted my fingerprints. That in itself caused apprehension, as I then worried about what if they had matched up the wrong ones at the US embassy. Would I be deported, locked up, interrogated?! After what seemed an eternity (OK, more likely 5 seconds), the guardian of the gate looked at me and asked if I had anything to declare. At this point I felt incredibly stupid and English and replied “Tea and chocolate”. Luckily the beast smiled (these creatures can smile?!) and said “goddam brits with their tea”. I chuckled nervously not wanting to upset my new friend who controlled whether I would actually get to UNC or not. Luckily I was waved on and after dropping my papers and passport on the floor, to the sound of another “goddam brits” muttering, passed officially into the United States of America. 

Now I thought that was the stress over with and I'd have a chilled hour waiting for my connecting flight. Not according to Atlanta airport! For reasons unfathomable to normal human beings, passengers have to take their bags off the conveyer belt, pass through customs and check them back in again. Then go through security again. With a massive queue for each stage. Needless to say I had to sprint down the departure lounge once I got through to reach the plane in time, probably sparking a security threat or something. But screw them I'd had enough of the place by that point. An hour and half flight from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham saw me touch down in North Carolina to beautiful weather. I was in my jeans, so didn’t really appreciate the horrendous heat that literally knocked me sideways as I exited the air-conditioned airport.

My mentor Patrick met at the airport with a massive handshake (making me think, blimey everything is big including handshakes!) and a cheery “Good to meet you, Alex!” (in an American accent of course). I have to say its incredibly reassuring to have someone like Pat meet you at an airport and take you to your room and help you move in. Though I was a little embarrassed at first because I kept looking round like a child and going “wow” to everything. I know, goddam Brits! 

Anyway, once I had moved in (well, put my bags on the floor as I had no hangers) and put some shorts on (my jeans were soaked by this point), Pat took me to his apartment about 5 min drive away and we 'hung out' for a bit. Then his housemate, Madison, arose from his slumber to give me a sleepy “How you doin’?” and drove us into Raleigh for a BBQ with some of their mates. This was my first experience of being the only Brit in the room, with everyone doing a version of that song ‘whip my hair back and forth’ by Willow Smith (though it was to the side not up and down) every time I spoke. They were cool though and real friendly so that was reassuring. However, I had been up nearly 20 hours and traveled 1000’s miles by this point and was starting to flag. Luckily, Pat and Madison drove me back to my room on their way home, and after a rather long chat with my RA, who was very intrigued to have a international student on his corridor.It was an interesting conversation involving jet lag, time differences, rice crispy cake and random people being introduced to me. I also managed to blag a map (handily highlighted with the locations of food, beer, gym and class) and received my bedding which was delivered to the dorm a while earlier. Always a plus! It then got to me practically falling asleep in the RA's office on the sofa and I bid my goodnights, to a cheery chorus of "Y'all have a good sleep now!" This was to be my first sleep in the States and dam I needed it by that point!

Door to my (shared) room
My side of the room

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