Twenty three years ago today, with two gigantic suitcases in tow, $200 in travelers check and a friend named Razab Quasem Chowdhury, I came to America.
The guy who was supposed to pick us up at Hartsfield was a no-show. Another guy took my $5 and said he’d get me a luggage cart and bolted.
We tried to call numbers from a notebook where relatives had provided names of other Bangladeshis in Georgia. (Collect calls at 11 pm!) One, we discovered, was someone in the country of Georgia.
Fortunately for us, two Bangladeshi University of Alabama students, who were spending their summer in Atlanta working at a gas station to pay for tuition, invited us to crash at their place — a studio apartment, devoid of furniture except for a little TV.
I spent my jet lagged night watching talk shows — Maury Povich, Jerry Springer — with my jaw dropped. Infinite channels, 24-hour programming and this is the dreg that fills it?
We spent the next two days trying to reach anyone who’d take us and our massive bags to Morehouse. (I also spent it learning that you turned faucets clockwise, flicked light switches up and walked on the right side of the road).
The dude who finally arrived to pick us up came in a Miata, which meant Razab and I had to squeeze into the passenger seat and leave our suitcases behind.
I arrived at Morehouse, just as Orientation Week activities were beginning, and was told I needed a shirt and tie. My first words to my roommate were, “Hi, my name is Saeed. Do you have a tie I can borrow?”
Two days later, tired of trying to find someone to help retrieve our bags and tired of sleeping in a sheet-less bed with my towel as my blanket, Razab and I took a bus to Howell Mill, used a shopping cart to haul our suitcases, and hitched a ride in the back of a stranger’s pickup truck.
The guy said he was in a good mood because he was going to get married. “Boys,” he said, “today is the first day of the rest of our lives.”