Freddy Khan - March 14, 2002: Coming to America - Log for 26 Jan:
My introduction to the First African In Space project was a whirlwind series of meetings with Andrew Thomas and Debbie Brown of NASA, followed by a “faster than the speed of light” application for a visa to the USA.
I flew to America with Andy and Debbie, and their guidance and advice was great, especially of the “are you’ll sure you gonna be awllright driving on the proper side of the road?” kind. Immigration was a bit of an anticlimax, though. I was dying to brandish my thesis-like stack of credentials, including a three-month bank statement, an embossed invitation from NASA in Houston, a reference letter from my sangoma, and confirmation that I have a job waiting for me on my return to the Motherland. Despite this arsenal of paperwork, they barely noticed me. I had the overwhelming urge to go back, wag my finger at the immigration officer, and say to him: “Jou maaaa!”
Driving in the US of A was not a mission, as I had driven on the “wrong” side of the road before. The issue for me was moving out of the way when the ubiquitous, behemoth 18-wheelers roared their ways past me at 100 mph (about 160 km/h). The resultant slipstream was enough to make me feel like a fly on the bum of an elephant that had guzzled a ton of baked beans.
After a few days of orientation, I managed to find digs close enough to NASA, and far enough from the hustle and the bustle to be comfortable.
It still takes me ages to understand the language spoken here. It’s a bit surreal listening to someone speak, because you’re waiting for them to any minute say, “Man, y’all don’t worry none bout the way I talk, am just kidding with you”. I mean, I only ever heard people speak like this on Dallas or The Golden Girls. Think I will go out and buy me an English-American dictionary.