12 Chapters
Medium 9781605098258

9 Adapting to New and Different Cultures

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Am I in Amish Country yet? I wondered as I drove through the rolling hills of Lancaster County. I couldn’t be; there was a gas station back there. On the pavement of the two-lane highway, there were white circles every twenty meters; I later learned that these are there to warn cars to keep a two-circle distance from one another to prevent tailgating. As I drove around a turn, I spotted a horse and buggy trotting along on the shoulder of the highway. No way; this is so unreal, I thought to myself. But there they were, a little girl and her father riding in their own lane next to the heavy car traffic. If not for the large reflector on the back of the black boxy buggy, I might have overlooked it as it was obscured in the shade of the trees. So the reflectors are important modern additions. I drove slowly and carefully as I approached from behind. I could hear the horses’ hooves pounding the pavement and was eager to catch my first glimpse of the Amish.

When I finally arrived, I searched for a place to eat and found a “Pennsylvania Dutch” restaurant. I didn’t recognize any dish on the menu. I ended up eating chicken croquettes, Amish breaded chicken. It was so good, I wanted every other dish I’d never heard of. From the window of the booth I sat in, I saw a line of horses and buggies following one another to a park across the street. I decided to walk over and see what the occasion was.

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2 Hitting Rock Bottom and Rebounding

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Though I enjoyed Nebraska, I didn’t mind leaving. I was passing back through South Dakota on my way to Wyoming and looked forward to visiting the new friends I had met a few weeks earlier. The Klein family was out of town on a hunting extravaganza, so I drove 550 miles straight to Rapid City to visit Sugar Ray.

It was a long drive and I couldn’t help reminiscing. I thought of everything I’d been through in such a short period: wrestling a steer at the rodeo, the plane ride over Fargo, my farewell party at Metal Craft, hauling hay in Nebraska. This is just the beginning, I thought. I could feel myself growing comfortable with life on the road and perpetually being the new guy in town.

I was mostly lost in such pleasant thoughts, except for an aching dose of reality: I had been waiting for Sasha to return my call since leaving Omaha that morning. It was unusual and unsettling not to hear from her by midday. I knew something must be wrong, and as time wore on, I grew more concerned. I tried calling again, but without luck. I had no choice but to wait.

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10 Hitting Curveballs

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You’ve gotta come to Newport by Sunday morning,” Tim urged. It was Saturday night, and I was standing in Times Square on my second date with Tara. I wanted to stay through the weekend and spend more time with her. There seemed to be some potential, and I found myself wondering if she would become my girlfriend.

“Looks like I have to go,” I told her. “But I’ll come back.”

Tim Walsh, Ambassador of Tourism for the city of Newport, had e-mailed me months earlier about working in the tourist industry at the Visitors Bureau. He didn’t specify the exact job I’d be doing, but it didn’t matter — after reading his e-mail, I was convinced he was offering me a job in the right industry for the state of Rhode Island. Tim had contacted me while I was still trying to figure out what kind of work best characterized the Ocean State. My research and the advice I’d solicited from local residents had not been sufficient, and Tim proved to be persuasive.

“Great interview on NPR. You should work for us when you come through Rhode Island. Which month will you be here?” Tim wrote. He even offered to arrange for me to stay with a local family for the week. I’d never before relied on a stranger’s input to help me choose a job, but Tim sold me on his proposal, to work during the “Blackships Festival” in July, when, he pointed out, Newport is “the sailing capital of the world.”

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Contents

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub
Medium 9781605098258

5 Halfway Point Is Getting Rough

Seddiqui, Daniel Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It was 9:30 p.m. when I pulled over to take a picture of the “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign. After 980 miles, the two-day drive had pushed my body to the limit. It was mid-February, and I had driven away from Mississippi’s sixty-degree warmth into Wisconsin’s six-degree cold. Having spent a month in the South, I wasn’t prepared to face the wintry chill of the Upper Midwest — specifically, in the small rural town of Theresa, about an hour northwest of Milwaukee.

The owner of Widmer Cheese Cellars, where I had arranged to work in Theresa, had reserved a room for me at a local motel. Wisconsin is considered the nation’s dairy state, and as such, produces over 2.6 billion pounds of cheese per year. Mr. Widmer, the owner of Widmer Cheese Cellars, had hired me after seeing a message from me on his desk, asking for work. The day before he got my note, his son had seen me on The Today Show and mentioned that I wanted to work at a cheese factory in Wisconsin. Mr. Widmer had offered me a place to stay, but his daughter contracted the stomach flu, a virus I wanted to stay far away from. That night, I walked through the motel lobby with my usual luggage: computer, camera, and toothbrush. “I’m here checking in; last name is Seddiqui,” I told the concierge.

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