“So…..all set huh! What is the name of the place you said you were going to?” some random mom’s friend
“Ummm…Toledo” I replied uncomfortably.
“Toledo…To-le-do…….isn’t that in Spain? Did u check properly?”
I knew this was coming…too much condescension for a lady who just learnt how to use the internet though… I couldn’t have completely blamed her since google too churned out the Spain one at first.
“yeah! But there’s one in the US too and I am going there to finish my PhD from one of the well known universities in my field. Amma is in the other room. I have a lot of packing to do aunty. It’s so nice of you to drop in…..”
Unsettling but inevitable small talk for a student headed toward a ‘small-town’ in the US read one of those village-type/non-NY/ non-LA/ non-chicago….you get the point.
We small-townies are undoubtedly the butt of many jokes framed by the biggies. “Tere gaaon me milta hai kya yeh sab?”, “You call IHop a restaurant? hahahaha”.
One can’t live in denial of the facts. We are all only too aware of the minuses of being a townie. The feeling of seclusion from the rest of the world, the derelict infrastructure, an almost non-existent public transportation system, having to make do with local banks whose names sound like mathematical fractions or the thing you use to open locks…there are just too many!
I choose not to discuss the nasty details here. On the contrary, having spent close to a year in Toledo (It’s in Ohio btw), I’ve succeeded in a seemingly impossible job of unraveling positive things about the place.
So here goes my modest list:
1) The monies- This one is a big advantage. Almost everything from groceries to movie tickets to clothes is way cheaper here. A game of bowling costs roughly 3-4$ here (including beer and shoes), whereas the same would burn an 18-20$ hole in your pocket at NYC.
2) “Country roads take me home”- All said and done, the country-side does have its own old-world charm. Being away from all the hustle-bustle, the pollution and people breathing down your neck every second of the waking day does have a relaxing effect!
3) A big fat family- Our repertoire of recreational options being rather limited, people here generally form a more close-knit network for leisure activity. This includes going over to each other’s house practically every other day for dinner, a simple game of taboo or Pictionary or just plain drinks….things rarely seen amongst people in big cities. This does give a feeling of security and comfort away from family and when leading a frustrating graduate life.
The list ends here as there aren’t many more cogent points I can come up with. I think that the place one lives in is like a roommate with whom they have signed an apartment lease. Even if he/she is obnoxious and difficult to live with, practicality dictates that one should try to adjust at least until the lease ends. What usually happens due course is that we learn to appreciate the not-so evident good qualities about the person and eventually adapt to live with the person.
I believe that by the end of my graduate tenure, I would have a nuanced opinion about this place and probably have developed a much more cohesive relationship with it, despite its idiosyncracies!