I want to sleep all day. One more day my luggage is yet to be located, one day I worry losing the whole thing, possibly giving up on this whole “adventure” that I overestimated myself to go on and deciding to return home, never doing this again. But I hope not.
For the last two days, I slept well because I was too tired and stressed to think about all that has happened. I still feel slightly fearful getting out of the dorm every morning because of the unfamiliarity outside. But people have been nice here since I landed in America. They make small talks and wish you well when you leave. I think it’s a good start. I reciprocate the same way and try to make them feel the same kind of hospitality they’ve showed me. They’re always: “welcome back!`’ (outside the school in the small town, churches and shops put up banners to welcome students back to this university; one time the lawnmower shouted that across the road to me and I delayed my response because I wasn’t sure if it was directed at me), “have a good one!“, “you take care!” and “how is it going?” which I’m still not sure whether I should elaborate on my day when I get asked that or ask them about it. You get strangers across you on the same road smiling and saying “hello” to you and then leaving for our own destinations.
When I first arrived in my destination at Richmond half past midnight, it has to be a light at the end of the tunnel when I saw two orientation advisers waving their welcome banners at me. I was expecting to just see them in school when I get there with my own means. They helped me to settle baggage claims and got me on a cab which then costed me about 60 USD to get to school on that one trip. In the cab, it went quiet after the taxi uncle asked where I was from. It was the same kind of response I get from others when I tell them I am from Singapore. I have to leverage on Malaysia and Indonesia to draw reference to the proximity of Singapore to her neighbors and it being in Asia. But I understand that I do respond the same way when I get told by some exchange students that they’re from lesser-known countries in Europe or Middle East like Montenegro and Palestine… It was only in the second half of the trip that I started to make a conversation with him about what is good in Richmond and where he’d come from. I think taxi uncles are the same across continents; they are more than willing to talk if you are.
The roads are very dark all around, not many street lamps but they look safe and quite unlikely any animal will sprint out from the bushes to the roads, and that there are not many road signs around but the taxi uncle said that United States is someplace easy to get around. That is, if you have transportation… I just remember taking a longer time walking from place to place than spending time at one place. As for the weather, I expected nice and warm sunlight but still windy kind of summer here but it turns out not. The sun baked me the same way as it did back home. But the school looks undeniably beautiful. It may be distance and more distance but distance with the lush green scenery and the old brick buildings can make the walk quite pleasant. There are pine cones everywhere on the side of the brick roads. I will get more pictures of the school and then post them up on here soon.
I didn’t like feeling awkward and very alone again when I attended the orientation events like the picnic dinner. I dropped by really late and everyone was already in their own clusters. I sat down on the grass with someone who was alone and started asking him about Palestine because he was from there. Dead sea. Highly-religious country but secular government. Most of the exchange students I learnt that they’re either going to major in computer science, statistics or some life sciences. Afterwards, I went to the dining hall to have my dinner alone. Meals are served in buffet styles that are not shabby at all. Eating alone is not an uncommon scene there but I still felt alittle self-conscious. But I figure that one of these days when I am feeling brave and in a good mood, I could initiate to ask whether I can sit with the crew, who have prepared all these food, while they’re having breakfast and ask them about United States. But I need to first have my questions prepared. If I feel weirded out again, I must think that this is only temporary and they will not see me again if they find me eccentric.
Coming here, it just dawned on me again my identity as a Chinese or rather a Singaporean. In Guangzhou and now in the U.S., I get asked by Chinese students: if you’re a Singaporean, how come you can speak Chinese? Where were you originally from (in China) and when did you move to Singapore?. And the use of Singlish; I can never get rid of my heavily Singlish-accented English. What I can do is to slow down my speech and accentuate my pronunciation of words that have multiple syllables. Faking an accent here is not as big of a punishment right? But it surely takes effort to do that… The time I hitched a ride from an orientation adviser who was from China and has known Singapore for just its economy and the almost-70% vote towards PAP (no idea whether it’s unanimity or consensus but assuming it’s consensus, it is impressive to do research about).
Now, I realized that the thing that will nudge me to get out of the dorm is getting to learn the new things and documenting them, mostly in words and seldom pictures, will help with that. I think that, to think of talking to people as a social experiment, works better than worrying about whether I’d end up keeping in contact with the person and trying hard to keep conversations going. Goodnight and thank you for the love and concern from the other side of the planet.