The day we landed in Detroit was memorable. The next few months was even more memorable in a different way, though I don’t relish it as much. Everything was new to us. We were put up in a hotel in Farmington Hills. We were so tired when we got in around 7 PM or so, we all just crashed. I remember getting up at around 10 PM and hunger took over. Didn’t know where to go. Luckily we had some MTR packets and went out to the lobby where I was directed to a microwave. Dinner was some hot food that was much appreciated. The next morning, I stepped out of the room to find breakfast. It was still dark at 7 AM and the breakfast area was crowded. I manage to grab some bread and picked up some more and coffee for the room. Our friends on the plane were also put up at the same hotel and they were more venturesome. Sri had some friends and so off he and Siva went. I and Rama dressed ourselves up with the warmest clothing we had and headed out. At the traffic light, there was so many cars whizzing by I was confused how to cross. Then I noticed the ‘Push this button’ for pedestrian crossing and once the traffic stopped we hurdled across with the baby. It should have been a typical immigrant sort of sight for those driving by – clothes standing out, confused and overwhelmed. We stopped at the Arby’s and asked for a vegetarian sandwich and the girl at the counter didn’t understand what it was. I said ‘no meat’ and she finally gave me the bun with cheese and tomatoes. One of the staff was almost laughing when we had to pay $3.5 bucks for a piece of bun.
By Monday, we had got to know that our company was close by and there was a shuttle to work. All three of us – me, Sri and Siva – caught the shuttle and reported to work. We found similar company all huddled in a conference room. After introductions, there wasn’t much to do. A manager stopped by and said we will know our assignments. Two days passed and there was no news. In the meantime we had found out from HR that we needed to open a bank account. Someone, who had come in much earlier to us, had started taking driving lessons, so we all called this woman up and booked her. My first driving lesson was right on the streets, unlike in India where you would try it out on a field. I had gotten some lessons back home and was sort of familiar with the task. But I had kept looking right at the end of the bumper worrying what I would hit that it caught her attention. She asked me to just look ahead on the road and then I found myself easing in a straight line and speed much better.
After about a week, I got news that my project was going to be in Chicago. The client was a Pharmaceutical data processor. I was going in as a SAS expert where in actuality I hadn’t touched SAS one bit! We took the plane from Farmington Hills to Chicago. Again, our friends from the plane were also assigned to the same project along with another Indian-Australian we had gotten to know at work. Kee was a seasoned pro in life with grown up children and had lived in Australia for over a decade. He was well versed in technology and had a pleasant smile on him all the time. He could walk off as an expert in anything in an unknown land and our recruiters had no problem I guess in placing him in a lead position at the same client.
We were housed in a Red Roof Inn near Skokie, IL. Upon arrival, since we knew we would be in the area for a while, the first thing to do was apartment hunting. A young real estate agent took us around and we settled on an apartment near Gold Road – all of us. The apartment was quite spacious – it had two rooms, heat, A/C, refrigerator and running water (hot and cold) 24 hours a day. We just had to buy blinds as the previous occupant had taken it all with him/her. We were happy to have found something quickly. The agent was impressed at our opportunity – where in the world could you go to a foreign land with a contracted job paying decent money and start from day one without having to fight to make ends meet? Kee even went ahead and bought a used Toyota GT (?) – which was a cool red car and big. It was of the sporty type and none better to impress than all of us who couldn’t drive.
Having a five month old baby in a foreign land without any means of personal transportation started becoming a challenge. We had to get groceries regularly. The apartment was about a mile away from the nearest shopping center and it was November in Chicago. That means it was already turning very cold, so walking was not practical. Our good friend Kee played the Samaritan and took us on week ends and evenings to get what we needed. I remember our first shopping trip was to a Kroger. I picked up all that I could for a week. After a couple of days, when we needed something else, I had ordered a cab to take me to the same Kroger and called again to get ride back home. Now going shopping in a cab should be unheard of, but there was little choice unless we could wait till the weekend. One of the first weekends, we made a trip to a nearby Burlington Coat Factory and got Vikas one of his first toys – a quacking Donald duck! I think we still have in somewhere in the house. He was fascinated by the fans up on the ceiling and his mom remembers this the most of that visit even now.