IT HAS BEEN THREE YEARS, leaping into four, since I left Kuching for Chicago to pursue my tertiary education in Illinois Institute of technology, from which I have just graduated. travelling half the globe to the United states was like a dream to me, as I never expected to have such an amazing opportunity to step foot onto this land of liberty I thought I could only get to know from watching Hollywood movies.
Chicago did not welcome me with warmth; a break-in occurred in my apartment on my first week of arrival! For the next few months, coupled with the trauma of that incident, it was an adventure to expose and adapt myself to the cultures here in the United states. A worth mentioning story was when I had my first American breakfast at a diner called “White Palace Grill”. that breakfast literally drained my brain. As I am a foodie with a big appetite, I ordered the Hungry Man breakfast that had eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, hash browns, with a side of toast. I thought that would be it when I told the waitress what I wanted from the menu. What happened next was a list of questions. How would I like my eggs cooked: scrambled, sunny side up, easy over, medium over, hard over, poached, soft or hard boiled? Later she asked me what type of bread I would like: Wheat, white, raisin, etc. In my head, I was thinking, “Oh my gosh! those are some decisions to make so early in the morning.” even a simple breakfast was a discovery for me. As time went by, I also picked up phrases that Americans use when ordering food, more commonly in fast food chains: “for here” and “to go”, which is equivalent to “having here” and “takeaway/tapao” back home.
Chicago is none other than the low- humidity weather. One can spend a day without sweating or feeling greasy, in comparison to Kuching where three showers a day are necessary to keep myself feeling clean and refreshed. the weather in Chicago is also a rollercoaster ride. In just one day, the temperature could go from 35 degrees Celsius to 5 degrees Celsius. every day in Chicago is always a surprise because you just never know if the amount of layers worn correspond to the temperature that day.
Another activity that I like to indulge in in the United states is a road trip to national Parks, indulging myself in the magnificence of Mother nature. I spent one summer on a road trip with a few friends to yellowstone national Park, Grand teton national Park, salt Lake City, Canyonland national Park, Arches national Park, Maroon bells, and rocky Mountain national Park. that summer is one of the best memories in my life, filled with friendship, laughter and wonderful experiences.
If asked if I would go back to Kuching for good, my response is yes, but not at the moment. Certainly, I miss my family and friends, the delicious food and beautiful cultures in Kuching. However, at this point in my life, I opt for a life of growth. I want to immerse myself in a journey of challenges, adventures, surprises and uncertainties at this age. All these unprecedented experiences will definitely be chapters in my memory book that shape who I am.
One day, I will definitely leave all this behind, and go back to Kuching. While Chicago can offer me a higher standard of living, she cannot offer me the comfort, the mama love, that Kuching can offer, because Kuching is where my heart is and always will be.
Simon Ngiaw lives in Tabuan Jaya when he comes visiting. He graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a degree in Engineering Physics. He is currently working as a Technolo- gy-Electrical Designer in Chicago.