May 21, 2010

Colorado Diary - Apartment Life

I have been fortunate to have come to the US on an exchange visitor program sponsored by an educational institution. It has revived my good old college days experience and have made it possible to compare the kind of education I had back in India with the US. Again, I haven't traveled or visited any college other than the CSU and so this comparison cannot be used for any extrapolation.

First comes the apartment life. I was not fully prepared for my US trip partly because I followed my junior's suggestions who visited the same university last summer. He said I can take food in the mess for which the money will be taken directly from my monthly stipend. But it came as a shock to me when I came to know that they don't allow graduates to the mess. They expect graduates to take care of themselves and so we are given an apartment furnished with a kitchen.

The apartment is about 15 minutes distance by walk from the CSU transit center. The front portion of the apartment is secured by a gate. The key to unlock the gate and reach the front office is available only with the residents. The new comers are helped by the inmates or the concerned care taker to open the front entrance. Checking in is done at the front office by filling a few forms with your name as in passport, duration of your stay etc. The apartment has to be booked well in advance in order to get an accommodation. The CSU department and Prof. Chandrasekar's (under whom I will be working at CSU) assistant helped me in reserving an accommodation by paying $140 deposit and so a room was already allotted  for me by the time I arrived.

One of the Ph.D scholar working under Prof. Chandrasekar has already taken the key from the front office because my arrival time is after the office hours. The keys include  one for the front entrance, another to  my apartment and the third one to my bedroom. The fourth key, which is used to open my mail box located opposite to the front office was given a day later, after my check-in process is completed. All the keys but for my bedroom one were working fine. After registering a formal complaint from me, they changed the lock and gave a new key the next day. I must say that the maintenance people are very good and lot more friendly. They helped me to get in the apartment with a spare key and changed the lock with in the next working day.

I am living in the second floor at West Elizabeth. The apartment is called as The International House and the resident inmates come from various countries from all over the world. The entrance to the I.House has a lobby where people gather every Friday and introduce themselves to the new comers. The lobby also houses a snooker table,  hand socker game and table-tennis. Opposite to the front office lies a couch facing the television, and two computers on the left side which is for the resident inmates to get connected with their parents, relatives and friends through internet.

It is here at this lobby that I have made most of my friends who all have come from various countries to study at CSU. Well, actually you don't have to 'make' friends as people here are lot more friendlier and start to talk with you themselves. I started conversing with a guy from Russia when I was using the internet to send sms to my mom about the recent happenings. I told him about the time difference, about the cyclone Laila, about climate in Chennai, Himalayas and in some major cities. He seems to have known about Calcutta (he pronounced the 'cut' as in 'put') through his friends. He is a very good listener, and later he told about his country, but soon he got a call from his friend and so I couldn't learn much about him.

The lobby leads to a washing machine room on the left side.  Inside the washing machine room there is a place for inmates to share their stuffs with fellow residents, mostly left over by the students who are graduating/graduated in the current semester. I found lots of plastic utensils some of them are new, some CD's, a telephone instrument, some food items which are unopened and a book. My roomie picked up the telephone instrument; since much of the food items are non-vegetarian, I prefer not to take anything from there. But now I know when I leave the apartment where to keep the stuffs that I had bought so that other inmates can use them. They call it as "green recycling policy".

The apartment entrance leads to a kitchen and a common area. There are two bedrooms on either side of the common area and a common bathroom. The common area has a couch and a chair, a tea table and provision for cable connection. My roomie has bought a Sony television with wide angle. I watch programs during my lunch break. The programs includes Miss USA competition (which got over recently), random flicks, TBBT, Star wars and Exploring the universe with Stephen Hawking.

The common area, bathroom and two bedrooms are heated electrically the control for which is located near the bathroom. The bedroom was unfurnished before, and furnishing is done at free of cost at the time of checking in as per your requirement. I got a double bed, a desk and a chair and a cupboard to keep my stuffs on. Later I bought a comforter and a pillow to keep myself warm at nights. Its too cool inside my bedroom in spite of having a heater as the upper cut off is set at 70 deg Fahrenheit to save energy.

Unfortunately, I am not able to mingle with more people because most of them had vacated and had gone home for summer and will return back only by the month of August. The only Indian I had come across so far is the Ph.D student who works with Prof. Chandrasekar. The apartment life is good, but it will be in its full glory when more students are here, that is when the CSU is in session. I hope to make friends with more people and plan to meet some fellow Indians here in days to come.