Does America influence immigrants, visitors, students? I don’t know. Let’s make this decision together.
A year ago, my wanderlust led me to the shores of Philadelphia, USA from whence I proceeded to the big apple, New York City! Yaay! Moving on…..I left on an academic exchange program. It was a 10 months fellowship to the United States sponsored by the State Department in Washington with one of its policies being to preserve, learn and increase the number of speakers of world languages and importantly, to promote an understanding/relationship between American culture and other cultures around the world.
I applied initially, missed my interview date because my Internet subscription expired the same week the program officer sent an email invitation. The day I renewed my Starkomms subscription, saw the invitation, the interview was for 12noon at the American Embassy in Lagos, I was in Ibadan. Yes, I know Mon Dieu! Lagos traffic! That was 2010.
Following year, the program officer himself called me up one evening during Ramadan while I was trying to hurry up iftar (food for breaking the fast) preparation. I remember clearly I was not in any way excited about his call. I felt patronized and specifically, I felt “Oh! here we go again. They are just gonna screw me around again”. Well, did I mention the previous year I had still rushed to Lagos but unfortunately arrived at the Embassy just after the last interviewee and the white ‘Oga-at-the-top’ had left. Yes, this would explain why I wasn’t so excited about repeating the experience. Whew! boy, am I glad I went through the motions!
An interview, a TOEFL exam and good result later, I was on my way to my visa interview which by the way, the program officer let us know all we had to do was convince the interviewer that I would be returning. Sure. simple.
August 19, 2012, I boarded a Delta Airline flight headed for the United States to teach my mother tongue – Yoruba to undergrads at NYU. You can imagine my excitement. I felt chosen. I was a Fulbright scholar.
A transfer from Atlanta to PHL airport in the company of other Fulbrighters – Gledson, Kaka Chiu and Kristie, we were picked up at the airport by a pre-arranged shuttle service and all we had to show the driver was a printed coupon ticket. Cool! The one week orientation at the University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) was for lack of a better word, awesome!
Ps: at PHL airport, I met this Nigerian guy working there, Emeka and for some silly reason, he assumed it was a wonderful idea to sleep in his house because he was my ‘brother’ from Nigeria. Ewwwwww! even outside the country, these disgusting men still try pick-ups!
5 days later, I was on an Amtrak train headed to the big apple. whoo hoo! I missed my train though. This Amtrak ticket was a non-refundable, non-changeable $35. I had to pay for another ticket. That wasn’t so funny. How did I miss my train though I had arrived at the train station a good 45 minutes before boarding? Great question. First, I didn’t realize when the board says “on time” that the train was probably boarding. Secondly, I had no idea that the boarding platform was a subway platform. I had to heavy boxes and an equally heavy carryon. I am afraid I was no cat-woman. There goes my $35.
Next stop, 34th street Penn station, NYC. Let me just say no one came to meet me at the train station on my first visit to the big city. I had to pick myself and my three boxes up from the taxi queue and haul them into a waiting taxi. Arriving 10th avenue and in front of my new apartment building, I was momentarily at a loss what to do. I know I should have called my new roommate from the airport to let her know I was on my way but because I had never even used those public Nitel phones back then, I had no idea how to use similar public phones lying around every corner of the airport. I stood out there shifting from foot to foot until a service man came out of the glass doors and asked me who I wanted. Fortunately, he knew my new roommate and simply dialed her up on the intercom. Lucky me, she was home.
Anyway, enough of the chronicles. Moving on………….
Living in my cute, boarded up window-with-deep black-curtain blinds, I was happy. I found many things I liked in the many stores of Manhattan and especially on the expensive corner grocery of 10th avenue – D’agostino. We got Hagen-Dazs ice cream and soda on sale at this store especially and that’s what I have been trying to tell you all.
Prior to leaving Nigeria, I always avoided consumption of soda, ice cream and any other thing my hyper-sensitive conscious nutrition told me not to eat. I even teased a friend that was stuck on coca-cola and as a result felt he was adding weight and a paunch. I felt ice-cream was equally fattening while coca-cola would give me diabetes, empty calories and invariably, fat that I didn’t want. Funny thing was, I was a skinny, picky eater with no appetite most days. I also was in the uptight-tightass school of thought where it wasn’t proper or polite to use the “F” word especially in conversation with a female. I said this plenty times when chatting with my temperamental neighbor who was always cussing and somehow thought I felt it was cute and he was civilized that way. Well, I did not i.e until I spent 3 months in America.
The two things I always felt strongly about, Soda and the “F” word were now a daily staple for me. All my girlfriends cussed. My roommate is Black American so she did it in a way I had always admired from TV. Even my professor was doing it. Hey! when in Rome, act like the Romans so, I started to do it too. It was a relief to be able to vent that way because in the big apple, many things are gonna piss you off and you are constantly stressed in NYC. By the end of my Fulbright program, I had the art of cussing down to a cute pat. I also could not “effing” eat a meal (when hunger pangs finally drove me blindly into the kitchen) without soda. My choice of the poison, coca-cola. I always had a bottle of it in the fridge. Correction, we always had at least 2-3 bottles chilling in the fridge. That was my one addiction which still haunts me till date. I still can’t taste anything am eating or swallow properly without a bottle or cup of coke in front of me and I still cuss when I get emotional or pissed off (which is almost daily in this country).
Now, knowing how much I held unto my prim beliefs about cussing before my sojourn in New York and also my nutritional hypochondria about soda and ice cream compared to my present addiction to soda, I am still unsure if I should say I was influenced by my stay in the United States or if this is just a personal growth phase where I do not care anymore and would think nothing about saying to someone that pisses me off “MIND YOUR FUCKIN’ BEESWAX”.
What do you think?
Happy 53rd Nigeria.