It’s now day four and I am gaining confidence in my new life. I swipe my ID card noncholantly as I enter college buildings , an extra swipe at the desk in my student residence, to let the security guard keep a tally of who’s in and who’s out I presume. The security guards are polite and patient in dealing with my numerous requests for help. Yesterday, as I swiped, one said, slightly puzzled, “are you a student?’. ‘oh yes’ I grinned, ‘of the non traditional kind’ , and we had a chat about mid life achievements: he had published a book at the age of fifty five. Every day small acts of kindness or engagement like this boost my confidence that this venture might turn out good in the end.
My bed is positioned along the length of a large window, and I am relaxing on it to type this, Carrie Bradshaw fashion, with the sounds of Hispanic music at a discreet volume wafting over my urban panorama. After the unpromising arrival last night it has been a very promising first day. This morning I walked downtown to buy some bedding. A very helpful assistant mediated all the bedding terms in American English which are completely different to what I’m used to. It seems to me that my cultural confusion lies less in interaction with people and more in interaction with things. I don’t know if this is a sign of how attached I have become to material goods. I think instead that its more to do with wanting to have the right linguistic terms to hand. When I use the term ‘toilet paper’ and the assistant reformulates it as bathroom tissue, I feel a bit out of kilter.
I took the subway back which for me, with my claustrophobic tendencies, was a small triumph. I’m also managing the lift to my 10th floor bedroom very comfortably too, so this project is a coming-of-age in more ways than one. After lunch I went to the language centre to meet my colleagues for the first time. They were really friendly and supportive as Americans tend to be. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that they have this enormous work ethic and I’m going to have to get up to speed on that. But I came away feeling that this is going to be a welcoming academic community. The day ended perfectly when I returned to my student residence and found that both my parcels have arrived. I went to the mail room where a broadly smiling guy in the stamp of an elderly James Stewart sorted me out very quickly.
What a difference a day makes. I feel like a completely different person to the one who arrived last night.