Thank You America – Nasima Zahedi

While I was growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, satellite television went from being a novelty to a way of life, and brought us Hollywood’s rendition of American life in the 90′s: the flashy cars, the casual witty banter, the freedom of movement available to the actors, who never appeared to be bound by national borders or constraints on their civil liberties. I, however, paid more attention to the classic Hollywood movies from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s that were shown late at night.  Through these, I learnt that in America one could find honest bureaucrats, legal redress for any injustice, and above all, public libraries bursting with (free!) literature from across the world. For a little idealistic Anglophile like myself, America was indeed the promising land.

I never actually imagined myself coming to America, of course, though I did believe that if I did I would not be so naïve as to experience culture shock of any sort. After all, wasn’t English my primary language, and wasn’t I well-versed in the literature, classic films, and history of the West? So when I did eventually decide to travel to the States for my undergraduate education, culture shock was the very last thing on my mind. I was more worried about the kinds of courses I would be taking and whether it made sense to take as many of my books with me as I possibly could. I was lucky in that I had no difficulty with my visa or with the very long journey from Kabul to the heart of the rural Midwest, even though the searching stare of the customs officer in Denver was very unnerving. Denver Co was a fantastic, unreal sort of place, more so because Hollywood films from the 50′s could hardly have prepared me for a place that had people of hundreds of different ethnicities speaking fluent American English.

While I was growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, satellite television went from being a novelty to a way of life, and brought us Hollywood’s rendition of American life in the 90′s: the flashy cars, the casual witty banter, the freedom of movement available to the actors, who never appeared to be bound by national borders or constraints on their civil liberties. I, however, paid more attention to the classic Hollywood movies from the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s that were shown late at night. Through these, I learnt that in America one could find honest bureaucrats, legal redress for any injustice, and above all, public libraries bursting with (free!) literature from across the world. For a little idealistic Anglophile like myself, America was indeed the promising land. I never actually imagined myself coming to America, of course, though I did believe that if I did I would not be so naïve as to experience culture shock of any sort. After all, wasn’t English my primary language, and wasn’t I well-versed in the literature, classic films, and history of the West? So when I did eventually decide to travel to the States for my undergraduate education, culture shock was the very last thing on my mind. I was more worried about the kinds of courses I would be taking and whether it made sense to take as many of my books with me as I possibly could. I was lucky in that I had no difficulty with my visa or with the very long journey from Kabul to the heart of the rural Midwest, even though the searching stare of the customs officer in Denver was very unnerving. Denver Co was a fantastic, unreal sort of place, more so because Hollywood films from the 50′s could hardly have prepared me for a place that had people of hundreds of different ethnicities speaking fluent American English.

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