America – First Impression : 2

I did want to post DC and NYC pics, but I will do that later. There are a lot more things I want to say about the place.

Roads

“There are some people out there in our nation who don’t have maps” (link)… that’s so not true. They may not have world map, but many here do have road maps. Finding ways is much easier in India. To get from point A to B, you may have to know about 2-3 three villages or town you should cross and the direction on milestones will take you where you want to go. But here, there are hardly a few boards on Interstates which show the direction. You have to use sites like google maps or mapquest to get direction before you head to a place. The other alternative is road maps. Every highway has several exit roads which interconnect two highways. You will have to hop from one to another about 2-3 times in those many hours (link). Exits from highways may be on the left or the right side of the road, being on the correct lane is very important. If you happen to get lost, you need maps to get back on track. You wont find people on the street on a highway like in India to guide you and neither are there any directions on the boards (only the exit numbers are marked).

I was at Pink Floyd tribute band concert and during the break an old man (American) was talking about way Indians stop in the middle of the highway to check for directions and causing accidents because of fast trucks behind them. He said that about Indian Women driver in particular. he has seen it happen several times.

Road signs:

They are abundant. “Side walk closed, cross here”,”men at work, lower speed limit, 35 mph”, “men at work, turn head lights on”, “yield” etc. My favorite one is seen in Pennsylvania (not in Delaware or New Jersey for some reason): “Bridge may be Icy”. The reason eluded me for a month (thats why it my favorite) until my room mate told me why. In winter, there is sub zero air both over and under the bridge, while roads have cold air just over them, so bridge may indeed be icy in winter but not roads.

Resource consumption

All you read in news paper about USA being the biggest consumer of resource is true. Every two weeks, we go to super market to buy groceries. For every couple of items, we are given a polythene cover. There are loads of them lying in my home right now. Its hard to avoid it as we have to buy stuff all together for two weeks. The concept of commercial shops close to residence area and buying stuff for 2-3 days is non existent here. It is tough to avoid the use of plastic here. I remember the time (nearly 15 years ago) when most of the stuff were handed out wrapped in news papers.

The effort to reduces the consumption is also silly. I found a pamphlet on a hand dryer replacing paper tower claiming hand dryers are environmentally more friendly as trees are not cut. How they forget about the coal for the electricity used by the hand dryer? In my department, the printer gives out a page printing just one line with user name, date and time of the document it is printing out next. Everyday there are at least a pile 200-300 empty (but for that one line in the header) papers next to the printer. I do take some home to work out my assignments, but there is only so much i can do. The fact that upto 2000 pages can be printed every semester doesn’t help.

MRP:

There is no mrp on the food products and other consumer products which are bought regularly. I am not sure if this is a feature of capitalism or if its is in USA alone. We have to go by the price written in on the rack. They are consistent with price encoded in the bar codes. Because there is no MRP, prices vary from supermarket to supermarket with walmart being the cheapest.

Academics:

At least in my university, every course has a prescribed text book which is followed. I prefer this system rather having to write notes manage material from several sources. There are tonnes of assigments, quizes with midterm and end term to keep you on your toes all the time. During the orientation, there were couple of lectures on plagiarism in research and cheating etc. Kind if image that is projected in India about USA is that people obey rules student rarely cheat. Well, its not all that rosy. I do find copied work when I grade assignments and the average in assignments is usually high. Bottom line is that there are all kinds of students here.

Weekends:

Though my place is a small town. Many activities happen during the week end apart from foot ball. There are concerts, plays etc happening all the time. The one big advantage of being in a big university is that there are loads of workshops, activity clubs etc in place for students to engage in. Be it adventure club that has a hike, trek or rafting trip organized every week or community dace workshop that meets every week, there are stuff to do that can rejuvenate you from the academic work load.

Big fat Greek fraternities

There are number of fraternities here which are all named with three random Greek letter. “Phi Beta Kappa” “Alpha Pi Epsilon” etc etc (i am making them up, for all that i know, they may actually exist). From the wiki link (link), I find that they are so named to abbreviate they motto in Greek. There is one named “Delta Phi Theta”, and when written in capitals, it reminds me of the deathly hollows 🙂

Ads:

There is standard protocol for Ads here

A: I have this problem
B: Ok, have you heard of this product?
A: No, what is it?
B: It is <blah blah>
A: What are its advantages
B: <blah blah>

Thats it! and if its an ad for a medicine, it usually end with, “side effects may include headache, nausea, vomiting, fever and liver damage”. Thee are some good ads, but only a handful.

There are couple of new ad style that are common here. Any event that has to be publicized, balloons with the event ‘logo’ are strung around the bus stop area for people to notice. Neat Idea I think. Also, there is this airplane which carries a huge poster around the city all day with Gaico (insurance company) ad on it. I wonder if it is efficient at all. No one looks at it and on foot ball days, when it is most common, people watch foot ball, not some plane flying around the town.

Archtechture

Most of the universities are very old. This is very much evident in the architecture here. It does add to the beauty of the place. There are new buildings in place, but the campus is dominated by the old and red buildings. Purdue is also similar in this aspect. I am not sure about other universities but given that many universities came into existence in 19th century, I wont be surprised if all of them look similar.

Coins:

The cost of any product is not a multiple of a quarter (25 cents). It can be $2.37 or $4.56. After every transaction, you are left with load on 1 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent and 25 cent coins. I have about 80 (all put together) of them in my room. I have no clue how to dispose them. The bright side is you wallet gets heavier every time you spend :).

Cleanliness:

Toilet papers are not clean. I have seen people throw cigarette butts carelessly on the roads. Other than that, yeah, the country is very clean. There are dustbins everywhere. With a lower population, it is very easy to keep it clean. Take New York, with so many people, it is as chaotic as India. The traffic is disorderly and the place is not all that clean esp china town area.

Cultural and Religion:

Hmmm … the only thing that you will notice is some people don’t dress according to, lets just say, “Indian Culture” (don’t ask me what it means). When everyone around you is similar, you hardly notice it, and it not at all a distraction. People do wear shorts toclass and no one complains and no one takes an offense.

Many students works here. Libraries, labs etc are all managed by students who earn from part time positions. I think such a system must be developed in India as well. We have them in IITs where a few things are manageed by students, but they are not paid for it. This is very option when scholarship for financially challenged students is limited.

Religion and caste make headlines all the time in India. With most of the country being Christian, it occasionally makes headlines here. In a local daily, it was published that about 14% of Americans were found to be atheist. Thats a pretty big number I thought. There is this person who preaches about Christianity everyday in the afternoon near a building where some people usually gather around. On one occasssion, a few non-believers started arguing with him. As expected, it went on and on. At one point one of them raised a point of being narrow minded when anyone considers Christianity being the real truth. The preacher replied, “To me, calling some one narrow minded is a high school taunt. When you don’t know is murder and rape is good or bad, you are open minded. After all the arguments, when you know that its bad, you are automatically closed minded! It just a high school taunt.” The argument carried on (obviously). I left the place thinking about a similar experience I had when I was called narrow minded for not accepting violence as a solution.

Update:

Coffee

Americans love their coffee as much as South Indians love their filter coffee. Junta get their spill proof glass to buses and classes and having during the course of the day.