I showed up in Kentucky. For a few weeks I did not understand people. People did not understand me. I would ask questions in class. The professors would make me repeat a few times and give up. I spoke fast.
"Are you from New York?" someone asked me.
Never been was the correct answer.
When I landed in America I could not have told you the cultural differences between Kentucky and California. Within a year I knew. Deep South. Bible Belt. That's a Heart Of Darkness of its own kind.
"So you are from Nepal?"
"Do you go up Mount Everest during weekends?"
Week one was orientation. I was talking to everyone, shaking every hand I could grab. One person I got to meet and later became friends with was Didre, black woman. She apparently had been watching me work the room.
"What are you? Some kind of a McDaddy?" she asked when I said hello to her.
I had no idea what she was talking about. I had never come across the term.
Weeks later I was at another event working the room. I talked to these two girls, classmates. As I walked away I heard them say, "Maybe he comes from a culture where men marry several women."
A year later I am at the computer center sitting next to Glen on a Friday evening teasing the hell out of him. This was a small town in a dry county with nothing to do. You went to the local Walmart if you wanted to go out.
After about 20 minutes John, who was gay and sitting several computers away, said out loud, "Paramendra, if I were you I would not try so hard."
Glen was not amused. I was.
An hour later I read in the news online Mirza in Nepal had been shot dead. They pushed 42 bullets into his body.
My first roommate and I did not get along at all well. It did not help that I decided to run for Freshman Class President and decided to call up every freshman in the phone book. Drove him nuts!
"T-h-a-t i-s n-o-t -h-o-w y-o-u d-o i-t!" he said.
Later he said, "Don't you think you are superior just because you are a foreigner!"
Soon we were leaving notes for each other on our desks. No more talk.
The school authorities found him a new room and rommate soon enough.
As for the election, I got trounced. Everyone else got more votes than me. But within six months of that I got myself elected student body president. They had to change the constitution so I could run as a freshman. I befriended the reigning SGA President Nick who rammed the amendment through the SGA Senate.
After I gave my speech to the entire student body when running, a friend came right after to tell me, "I did not understand a word you spoke, but you sounded so excited, I figured you might do something, so I voted for you!"
Brian and I are good friends now.
Melody graduated at the end of my freshman year. She became an AmeriCorps volunteer. She was assigned to a school in Rock Castle County, which was a next door county. She asked me if I would like to show up and talk about Nepal to the kids. I said sure. This was in summer. I spoke to a class of elementary school kids and another class of high school kids. The young kids asked the more intelligent questions. After I was done talking one six year old walked over to me, shook my hand and said he was not going to wash his hand that day.
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An Economics professor - Stolte - asked his class what they thought of when thought of Nepal. Noone said Everest or Buddha. Everyone said Paramendra.