& geeky stick boy
Hello Friends! Greetings from Sunny Florida!, by Lei (Feb., 2001)

I am writing from my home in Tarpon Springs, Florida on Feb. 25, 2001. Till now, Jody and I almost settled down.

We have a computer that only read English, so I have to tell you my experience for these two weeks in English.

We left Beijing on Feb. 12. At the Beijing Airport, we were stopped by the Custom Officer who required Jody to turn in his Resident Card, otherwise we can not leave the country. However, the Resident Card had been put in one of eleven suitcases that already checked in. The police officer was very tough and affirmed that if we don't find the card, we would not be allowed to leave the country. Jody was pissed off. As you can imagine, Jody was led to the luggage room and asked to searched through eleven suitcases to get the card. It was until 30 minutes before we finally find the card. Thanks God, we don't need to take back all our luggage and make another trip arrangement.

It took about 2 to 3 hours to arrive at Tokyo airport and after 1 hour we changed to another flight heading to Detroit. It's a twelve-hours long trip, the plane is crowded and not very comfortable. Detroit is my first stop in US, so I have to process my immigration at the entry. We took a friend's advice and I waited at the citizen line with Jody instead of the non-citizen Line, when we finish, the other line just started. The immigration officer stamped a temporary thing on my passport and I will receive the resident permission (also called "green card")in next few months, which enables me to work legally. At Detroit Airport, we have to take out the luggage and check in again, it's painstaking. We put all the suitcases on 3 carts, Jody has to push one and drag another. Anyway, we successfully handled them. While, we are waiting for the plane to Tampa, Florida. I spend my first Dollar for a bottle of water, the price is $2.12, Wow. .

Jody's friend picked up us at the Tampa airport, he drove a big van. I am amazed by how warm Florida is. It's feel like summer, actually, I am wearing summer clothes and go swimming outside.

We spent our first two nights at Jody's friend's house before we find a new apartment. His friend, Tom, who is very generous to offer us stay with them, has a black dog, they said it's just a puppy (a baby dog), but it's up to my knees and very energetic. He was so excited seeing us entering the house and just jumped on us, I let out a scream and was very scared. I have to explain to you that all the story I have heard in China about dog is how fierce they protect his owner's house and chasing after strangers, plus in Beijing most dogs are those white small puppy that never grow big. The poor dog was enclosed inside the kitchen the rest of the night by Tom's wife, a very nice lady. This reminds me that an English friend has to keep his black cat in the garden each time I visited them. I feel bad for it. But, but the next day I am familiar enough with the dog and pet him, even let him lick me. Tom also has a pretty daughter who speaks English I have difficulty to understand, I find myself have more difficulty understand kids talking since I came here, plus she is sick and also broke two of her teeth. Both of Tom's two boys play football. They practice very often and it's always green in Florida so you don't need to worry about the football field. I watched his younger boy, Bob's football game last Sunday, I am amazed to see the boys played very well, they are all under 14 years old, but I should say the game is as good and exciting as the ones I saw in My college. Many parents went to see their boys, they are very excited and encouraging. It's impressive. Bob's team won the Championship. Tom's family are the Americans I contact most often so far.

Ok, after 2 days, we moved into apartment, it's about 970 square feet, with 2 bedroom(we use one for the office), one and half bathroom (half doesn't have shower), very functional kitchen with stove, dish washer, big refrig. A nice living room with a small balcony. In fact, we went to four different apartment complex, it's not difficulty to rent apartment here, the price ranges from $450 to $600. You have to take into account the price, size, location, surroundings(if easy for sports) design, neighborhood. If you intend to rent, you have to reach agreement with the rental office, they have to check your credit and sign a lot of contracts. After that, you call to turn the power, water, telephone on. Order for cable TV and Internet (very fast internet). Looking for furniture and electronic equipment. We had a good luck and bough most of furniture in a Hospice thrift store. This store is run by the organization who takes care of aged people, after they die, they will donate their furniture to this Org. and they are sold very cheaply. The coolest thing we got is a corner table for sofa with radio and record in it. So generally, we set up our home and I am very happy that for the first time in my life we really have a nice home now. There are several things I like about it, the soft carpet on the ground so we can walk with bare feet, very convenient and well equipped kitchen, hot shower at anytime during the day, 32 inches TV only for $450, more than 100 TV channels ( I haven't really look through all of them yet), a walk-in dress closet for all my clothes, a swimming pool inside the complex.

The first two weeks, as you know, we drove around and find the things we need. Fixing the air conditioner and the brake of our car give me a big surprise, it costs enormous money! I went to get my Social Security number today, on the way back, we went to check the driving license. I have to take two written tests and driving test. Actually, Jody started to teach me driving at the parking lot at night when there is no car, even though I am doing fine but I am fairly nervous. I don't know how long it will take for me to drive confidently and I can go nowhere by myself if I can not drive well.

Ok, it has been two weeks, let me tell you something I saw and felt about here, but please remember this is only first glance, I understand sometimes the first impression and interpret can go very wrong.

Florida(FL), very warm, the car feels like steamed after parking a while under the sun. I am as dark as you can imagine after two weeks; Many aged people, some of them live in the North and only come down in winter, people call them snowbirds; tropical view, the area I live seems like built on the wildness, not many people, few high buildings, a lot of wild space. people who work no matter in Market, bank or government office are very friendly and helpful. Generally speaking, they work more efficient, e. g. to get Social Security number only takes 5 minutes. Americans have the awareness that if you don't offer good service, I will give my business to others. Drivers are strictly obey traffic rules, so even the traffic is busy, everyone can get through smoothly. In American, people are bigger size, I became a very small size girl here. It really surprised me. Very few Chinese here, but quite a few Chinese restaurant, I have been to a Chinese restaurant twice, it is run by a Fujianese, he is excited to see me and always come to talk to us the first time when we were there. He couldn't speak any English when he first came to the US and first worked in the Kitchen, but now he owns his own restaurant and have his family members work in the restaurant, Jody said he must be an immigration expert. He gave me two cans of Zhacai, (pickles) and tell me where to buy Chinese food.

I talked so many things about my experience, you must think I am enjoying myself leisurely here . That's wrong, let me tell you a small story, when Jody and I were in the supermarket one nigh, a young man looks like native American approached us and asked which was strawberry yogurt. He has strong Hispanic accent that I can barely understand , but I helped him to find it. Jody is a bit surprised that if he knows the word why he can not find. I realize that he can not read. Jody's mother has once asked me if I read as well as I speak, I think most Chinese read better than they speak. Anyway, even the Mexican boy only come to this country no longer than I do and barely speaks the language, I still think he is much more like American than I am, only when I am here I realize how alien I looks like, just think about when Jody was in China. (Now I start to understand it's really not easy for Jody to live in China)

Even though, I can speak pretty good English, but I still have difficulty, I can only partly understand TV program, when I talked to kids, they looked at me puzzledly, when you want to express yourself, you find people speak the same meaning in the way that you never hear of. When I noticed that I can not speak like the girl who work at the fast-food restaurant, I wonder what work I can do? Sometimes, I have to pass the telephone to Jody because I can not fully understand those unfamiliar calls. I remember I have read an article about a Chinese who first arrive on this land. He says it seems his over 20 years life experience suddenly don't function any more, I think it's about the same. Think about when you go to the bank or post office, you have no idea how they operate, you don't know how to order fast food to take away through a phone, you are confused to read all the road names and signs on the street, you have to learn how to use washing machine, dryer, kitchen facility and even some trivial things that never occurs to Jody that I don't know or I never used before. I had trouble with telephone and made several mistaken phone calls to other's mobile phone. Like how to read phone book, television program, etc. You don't feel comfortable because you are not familiar with how people think, speak, react. If not with Jody, I don't know how to start a room calling for water, electricity, etc. partly it's good that he took care of everything, part it's not good because I was deprived of the opportunity to find out myself. Well, I know this is only the beginning and things and my feeling will be much different one year from now. But I should say I am really shocked and pressured to find out that I am so ignorant now.

Ok, I am glad to share my story with you, it turns out so long. I think that's most what I want to tell you. Anyway, it has been only two weeks. I may have a lot to say in the future.

Wish you all the best!