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 Letter 2 Orientation and Settling Down August 15, 2000 

"Mom, where's my bed tea??" I murmured in my sleep and no response, my first morning in Florida was full of surprises, first surprise being not finding mom around. I rubbed by eyes and woke up alert coming to terms with the fact that there's a lot to be done. A quick breakfast and a couple of directions, strange ones like "SW 13th and NE 19th" I said what is that? Well you need to know a lot about Geography to decipher the road system here. Anyway, fortunately the bus system is pretty good, regular and FREE for univerity students so I had a bus to go on.

Well the bus stopped and I hopped into it; it was chilling inside, and to my utter surprise no Conductor no tickets. This was just the beginning, well there's only 1 person totally in charge of the bus and I found him redundant because the system was so automatic. Imagining a bus with no conductors and one which stops on request was great. This was just the beginning of my surprises.

The first morning look of the University was awesome, with everything flawless and clean. I saw all the cars I had ever imagined I'd find in a Bond movie. Well I was getting slowly used to finding so many foreign people around trying hard to understand their accent and be like them.

The first reporting was at the International Center which is the hub for International Students. A big welcome,a wide and warm hug, and a grand feast awaited me there. After completing the initial formalities I proceed for my ID card which represents access to everything on campus. I still loathe my photo on the card because the jet lag was more than evident. Everything looked so quick and smooth and standing in a queue was becoming rare. I got a bank account and an ATM card in 15 minutes and haven't ever been to the bank ever since (coz I didn't need to and everything is through the Internet and ATMs), to my surprise the bank people charge money if you see them personally for work!!

Well the first week was full of activities, orientations and filling up forms. The campus was thronged with scientific companies, free pizzas, fraternities (communities of people of different origin) and tons of credit card companies offering everything from free t-shirts to free mobile phones for signing up with them. Well I have 4 already and many of my friends took 12. It's all because there's something called credit history which is a sign of a person's credit worthiness and is recorded on a unique number called the Social Security Number and it's a good practice to spend money on the card and pay it back in time to get more credit worthy!! It helps everywhere while getting an apartment, a job, a loan etc etc. There was so much to do and so much of literature to go through-catalogs, manuals, offers and blah blah blah.

good friendsI was slowly getting used to the place and the fact that I had a good group of seniors now acquainted and a good circle of friends (prospective roommates) coming up really overwhelmed the feeling of missing home. It was three days since I came and I realized that it's time to move into my own apartment because it was already too long at a senior's place. Well I had a long list of apartments to choose from and the University Division of Housing was really helpful in advising me what precisely to look in an apartment and delicate issues like signing the lease which was my first signed legal document in the US. For the first time in my life I started looking for renting a house and went to about 5-6 apartment complexes close to campus and prescribed by the division of housing (closeness to campus is a big advantage in terms of saving transportation efforts and costs). I finally settled for a 2 Bedroom 2 Bathroom apartment which had a fridge, an oven, a dishwasher and common swimming pools, pool tables, a laundries and a gym (WOW!! -- don't be surprised even the worst of apartments here have these and it's a part of life).

at the groceryNext morning I found myself packing my bags ready to move into my new house along with my 3 roommates. Settling down in the house was one of the difficult tasks and one thing that struck me most was a power cut in my apartment and I exclaimed, "Not Here!" Well it was just that we guys hadn't transferred the utilities(electricity) in our name and that has to be done before moving in, so we paid a price. Anyway there hasn't been a Power cut ever since! Suddenly we guys realized that we have to eat to survive and came together for the mission "Grocery Shopping" ie bhaaji -tarkaari. Well was that a grocery store, phew as big as palika bazaar in Delhi. It was more like a market place with an in-house Bakery, Bank of America branch, Pharmacy, a liquor shop and ... I entered in totally confused where to go and then a nice sweet lady assisted me with my shopping, asking me what I wanted and taking me there (I was getting used to finding everyone around so helpful).

Isn't it puzzling when you find 6 different varieties of onions and 4 different varities of potatoes to choose from? It sure is and that's what baffled me, and much more to that everything called so differently than I used to call (frankly I never shopped Groceries in India) so it was altogether difficult. Anyway we guys somehow managed to get something together for the night, cooked fatafat pulao and found ourselves deep into bed snoring with no worries of tomorrow because our first weekend in US had arrived and on weekend "NOBODY WORKS"

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